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Investing in youth's mental health

Avatar Gabrielle Rocha Rios
Member since July 15, 2018
  • 3 Posts
  • Age 25

Image: Ben Duchac via Unsplash

Image: Ben Duchac via Unsplash

Statistics show a worrisome picture of mental health worldwide: depression is the leading cause of disability, and every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide.

But in no population group are current statistics on mental health more worrisome than young people. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 and the leading cause for girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Mental health conditions also often begin during the teen and young adult years, with estimates citing that half of the conditions will develop by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. I’m one of the young people who belong to these statistics—my mental health conditions developed by the time I was in my early twenties—and I know well the toll that poor mental health has on our lives. My mental health conditions have affected every aspect of my life—my friendships and relationships, my ability to work, and academic performance.

Despite the seriousness of poor mental health among young people worldwide, many barriers remain in addressing this issue. One of them is the lack of investment in mental health from governments worldwide: it’s estimated that only 3% of governments’ health budgets goes to mental health. Without access to therapy, medication, and peer-support, I would not have been able to thrive despite my conditions. My experience and that of those who have been able to access mental health resources highlight that without investing in mental health care, and access to that care, there can be no changes to the statistics. Mental health is a global health issue and must be addressed as such.

There are reasons to be hopeful, however. For example, mental health has been included in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under goal 3 of good health and well-being. Mental health being placed in the heart of the global agenda is an important step towards the growing awareness of mental health and in breaking the stigma surrounding this topic.

The number of young people in the world is growing, and so, the investment in youth’s mental health worldwide should account for this change. Almost half of the world’s population (42%) in 2017 was under the age of 25. In 2015, there were 1.2 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world—that’s one out of six people—, and projections estimate that this number will increase to 1.3 by 2030—the target date for the fulfillment of the SDGs. Investing in youth’s mental health, then, means investing in the future of the world.

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