The COVID-19 pandemic has raised huge concerns for the mental health of an entire generation of children and young people and parents and caregivers. But the pandemic may represent only the tip of a mental health iceberg – an iceberg we have ignored for far too long. The data show that more than 13 per cent of adolescents aged 10–19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder as defined by the World Health Organization. This represents 89 million adolescent boys and 77 million adolescent girls. Every year, almost 46,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 end their own lives – about one every eleven minutes.
For the first time in its history, The State of the World’s Children examines mental health, with a special focus on how risk and protective factors in the home, school and community shape mental health outcomes. Against a backdrop of rising awareness of mental health issues, and growing demand for action, the report argues that we now have a unique opportunity to promote good mental health for every child, protect vulnerable children and care for children facing the greatest challenges.
The report demands urgent investment in child and adolescent mental health across sectors, not just in health. It argues for proven interventions in areas like health, education and social protection, such as parenting and whole-school programmes. And it calls for societies to break the silence surrounding mental health, by addressing stigma, promoting understanding, and taking seriously the experiences of children and young people.