UNICEF presents the results of the study on mental health of young people at the Parliament
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April 10, 2023, Tbilisi, Georgia. One out of four young people experiences moderate or severe anxiety symptoms, one in three suffers from signs of depression, and one-third of students have thought about suicide at least once in their lives, says the study conducted by UNICEF among 18-24-year-olds at seven state universities in Georgia. The study was presented by UNICEF at the meeting organized by the Sports and Youth Issues Committee of the Parliament.
The study has shown that young people comprise one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of mental health. Seventy-two percent of students claim their mental health problems have interfered with their daily activities and relationships in the past two weeks.
The study was conducted by the Child Rights Centres established at seven State universities with the support of UNICEF. In order to study the awareness of mental health and access to mental health services, 2995 students of Kutaisi, Batumi Gori, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Telavi, Zugdidi and Sukhumi universities were interviewed. In-depth interviews were conducted with individuals involved in mental health legislative policy development, local government health officials, and mental health professionals.
Although 97 percent of the surveyed students have heard the term "mental health," only the third have some information about it. More than thirty percent of students say they do not share with anyone their feelings and experiences related to mental health. The majority of students say that in case they realize they require help from a mental health professional, they will not turn to anyone for help and will try to solve the problem themselves (44%).
Barriers to receiving mental health services include lack of information, high prices for visits to specialists and medications, mistrust of specialists' knowledge and qualifications, and fear of the breach of confidentiality when receiving services.
The majority of students lack information about mental health services. In case of necessity, most of them plan to find information online via various websites, YouTube channels, influencers' blogs, social networks, and search engines. However, according to mental health specialists, information obtained on the web is unreliable because it is unlikely to be based on medical sources.
By estimate of field experts and mental health professionals, no supportive, preventive, or rehabilitative services are available to young people. Specialists consider it essential to identify mental health problems at an early stage and to develop rehabilitation programs, including those promoting the reintegration of young people into the environment after treatment for mental disorders or addiction. Other issues identified as significant challenges included the creation of a suicide prevention program, increasing the availability of psychologist and psychiatrist services, and further development of social worker services and mobile groups.
Young people suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, or panic attacks are those who most often seek the advice of mental health specialists. Addiction to psychotropic substances and mental problems caused by them, such as paranoia, hallucinations, sleep disorders, are perceived as a significant problem among young people.
"Every young person deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and that includes good mental health. The results of this study highlight the urgent need for greater investment in mental health awareness and support for young people. By prioritizing mental health, we can create a brighter future for the next generation," says Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.
Based on the research, UNICEF considers it important to develop appropriate public services that are free and sustainably available for young people. When planning mental health services and programs, it is crucial to consider the age characteristics of young people to make these services interesting and attractive to them. Raising awareness of mental health issues in the community, including among young people, would be essential in order to reduce barriers to receiving mental health services.
The Study of University Students' Mental Health and Their Access to Mental Health Services is available here: uni.cf/3VMMTnm
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/georgia/