Mental health problems are focus of International Youth Day

Every year, one in five young people across the world experience a mental health condition. But only one in five of those will get the treatment they need.

Young people with mental health issues can often suffer from discrimination at school and outside – and many of them don’t turn for help for that reason.

Today is International Youth Day and this year’s theme is “Youth and Mental Health”. Discussions and awareness campaigns will take place across the world and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said all nations must work to help young people with mental health conditions to realise their potential.

He said the risks were greater during the transition from childhood to adulthood and that stigma and shame often prevented them from seeking help.

Mr Ban added: “The barriers can be overwhelming, particularly in countries where the issue of mental health is ignored and there is a lack of investment in mental health services.

“Too often, owing to neglect and irrational fear, persons with mental health conditions are marginalised not only from having a role in the design and implementation of development policies and programmes but even from basic care. This leaves them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and social exclusion, and has a negative impact on society as a whole.”

A World at School’s Chernor Bah will moderate an International Youth Day event at the UN headquarters in New York – which brings together young people, civil society, UN agencies and experts to discuss young people and mental health.

Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, said: “On International Youth Day, I am moved more than ever by the powerful voice of the 1.2 billion young people across the globe who are boldly taking a stand in calling for the protection of the right to education. 

“This year’s theme of mental health reminds us of the need for inclusion of every single child in the reaching her or his full potential through education, particularly those with disabilities and the 28 million out-of-school children living in conflict areas in need of education and psycho-social support.”

The United Nations children’s agency UNESCO is concentrating on helping such marginalised young people to integrate into society, supporting school health programmes and informal learning. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “The mental health of young men and women is important for the health of society as a whole.”