The State of the World's Children 2021

On My Mind: Promoting, protecting and caring for children's mental health

Mental Health


As the coronavirus pandemic descended on the world in 2019, these powerful emotions enveloped the lives of many millions of children, young people and families. In the early days especially, many experts feared they would persist, damaging the mental health of a generation.

In truth, it will be years before we can really assess the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health.

For even if the potency of the virus fades, the pandemic’s economic and social impact will linger: over the fathers and mothers who thought they had left the worst of times behind them, but are once again struggling to put food in a baby’s bowl; over the boy falling behind in school after months of disrupted learning; and the girl dropping out to work on a farm or in a factory. It will hang over the aspirations and lifetime earnings of a generation whose education has been disrupted.

Indeed, the risk is that the aftershocks of this pandemic will chip away at the happiness and well-being of children, adolescents and caregivers for years to come – that they will pose a risk to the foundations of mental health.

For if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that our mental health is profoundly affected by the world around us. Far from being simply a question of what is going on in a person’s mind, the state of each child’s or adolescent’s mental health is profoundly affected by the circumstances of their lives – their experiences with parents and caregivers, the connections they form with friends and their chances to play, learn and grow.

Mental health is also a reflection of the ways their lives are influenced by the poverty, conflict, disease and access to opportunities that exist in their worlds.

If these connections were not clear before the pandemic, they certainly are now. COVID-19 has put the mental health and well-being of an entire generation at risk, but mental health concerns are not new: Indeed, long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, parents, teachers and many others were voicing growing unease about the mental health of children and adolescents.

This is the reality that is at the heart of The State of the World’s Children 2021.

On My Mind
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