Ensuring mental health and well-being in an adolescent’s formative years can foster a better transition from childhood to adulthood

Adolescence is a critical and formative period in which individuals begin their transition from childhood to adulthood. Ensuring that adolescents are fully supported in all facets of life is critical for fostering this transition and laying the foundation for a healthy and productive remainder of their lives.

While there are many factors that significantly effect adolescence, once which has been often overlooked is mental health and well-being. Mental health issues constitute a major burden of disease for adolescents globally. It is estimated that one in five adolescents will experience a mental health disorder each year, self-harm is the third leading cause of death for adolescents (see Figure 1) and depression is among the leading causes of disability[i]. Despite this, adolescent mental health and well-being have often been overlooked in global health programming. Yet, in the Sustainable Development agenda, mental health is being more critically recognized as an important component of the global health agenda. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4[ii] aims to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment as well as promoting mental health and well-being. The inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development agenda, is a crucial step toward reducing preventable deaths among adolescents.

[i] WHO and partners (2017) Global Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA!). Geneva 2017.

[ii] United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg3.


Adolescent well-being encompasses many dimensions and UNICEF monitors several adolescent-specific indicators in the following vital areas: