Supporting Youth Mental Health: A Call to Action
According to the World Health Organization, one in seven children and teens aged 10 to 19 globally experiences a mental health condition.1 In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that a staggering 42% of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for two consecutive weeks that they stopped participating in their usual activities.2 These numbers are not just statistics; they represent the lives of our youth, and they demand our attention.
Identifying when a child or teenager is struggling with their mental health is the first step toward providing them with the help and support they need. Signs may not always be obvious, but here are some common indicators to look out for:
- Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
- Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
- Outbursts of extreme irritability
- Drastic changes in mood, behaviour, or personality
- Changes in eating habits
- Loss of weight
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in academic performance
- Avoiding or missing school
- Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful
- Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
- Talking about death or suicide3
Addressing youth mental health issues requires a collective effort from parents, caregivers, educators, and policymakers. In 2022, UNICEF launched the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health. This initiative is aimed at impacting policy change, increasing investments in mental health programming, and improving business practices.4 Their website also offers valuable resources for parents and caregivers on how to start conversations about mental health.
The Harsh Reality
The challenges faced by today’s youth are immense. A global pandemic, rising instances of violence, the looming threat of climate breakdown, and the pervasive influence of social media have combined to create a perfect storm for the mental well-being of our young generation. It’s important to shed light on the alarming statistics and discuss how we can better support all young people, in addition to identify struggling children and teens to provide them with the help they desperately need.
By identifying struggles early and providing the necessary support, we can help the next generation navigate the complexities of the modern world with resilience and hope. Let’s join the conversation, raise awareness, and take action to ensure that no young person suffers in silence.