NEW YORK: With the alarmingly high rates of self-harm,
suicide, and anxiety among children and young adults around the world, UNICEF
and the World Health Organization are teaming up with some of the world’s
leading minds to tackle this growing threat.
“Too many children and young people, rich and poor
alike, in all four corners of the world, are experiencing mental health
conditions,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “This
looming crisis has no borders or boundaries. With half of the mental disorders
starting before age 14, we need urgent and innovative strategies to prevent,
detect, and, if needed, treat them at an early age.”
In a joint push to put child and adolescent mental disorders
higher up on the global health agenda, the UNICEF and the WHO co-hosted their
first-ever conference on the topic in Florence, Italy. The conference was a
part of Leading Minds, UNICEF’s new annual global conference series, to
highlight significant issues affecting children and young people in the 21st
century. Part of celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, the conference led to recommendations for decisive
action informed by scholars, scientists, governments, philanthropists,
business, civil society, and young people themselves.
Up to 20% of adolescents globally experience mental
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 19-year-olds
Around 15% of adolescents in low-and middle-income countries
have considered suicide.
The cost of mental disorders is not only personal; it is
also societal and economic. Still, child and adolescent mental health continue
to be overlooked in global and national health programming.
“Very few children have access to programs that teach them
how to manage difficult emotions,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Very few children with
mental health conditions have access to the services they need. This must
Leading Minds 2019 looks at the resources, partnerships,
services, political commitment, and public support needed to promote the mental
health of children and young people. The conference examined the rationale and
the results from the state of the science and practice, including the latest
evidence on brain health in the earliest years of life, through early and
middle childhood and adolescence. It considered the gaps in data that needed to
be addressed as well as successful programs in the past. It also interrogated
the overall prevalence of mental ill-health across ages and geographies, causes,
and contributing factors, and programs for preventing and treating disorders
and promoting healthy minds.
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