UNICEF: invest more in mental health

Almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for their age group

UNICEF Montenegro
A girl
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2021
10 October 2021

PODGORICA, 10 October 2021 – On World Mental Health Day, celebrated on 10 October, UNICEF is calling on governments and the public and private sectors to invest more in the mental health of children, adolescents and caregivers and to break the stigma around this issue.

We need to provide every child and adolescent with opportunities to learn to recognize and manage different emotions effectively. For this reason, we need to increase the number of psychologists in Montenegrin schools and build school environments where they can easily provide support to all students and teachers based on their needs. This can also be achieved through educational programmes which help students develop socio-emotional skills, such as the one that has been introduced in the Montenegrin educational system with UNICEF’s support. In addition, by providing free sports and cultural activities to children and young people in every local community, we are supporting them to be healthy. Finally, through parenting schools, SOS telephone lines for parents and children and other family support services, we are supporting caregivers to raise mentally healthy children.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro Representative

According to The State of the World’s Children 2021; On My Mind: promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health – UNICEF’s most comprehensive look at the mental health of children, adolescents and caregivers in the 21st century which was published on 5 October this year – a mix of genetics, experience and environmental factors from a person’s earliest days, including one’s parenting, schooling, quality of relationships, exposure to violence or abuse, discrimination, poverty, humanitarian crises, and health emergencies such as COVID-19, all shape and affect children’s mental health throughout their lifetime.

A girl
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020

While protective factors, such as loving caregivers, safe school environments and positive peer relationships can help reduce the risk of mental disorders, the report warns that significant barriers, including stigma and a lack of funding, are preventing too many children from being able to experience positive mental health or to access the support they need.

More than one in seven adolescents aged 10–19 are estimated to be living with a diagnosed mental disorder globally, and almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide every year, putting it among the top five causes of death for their age group. In most countries, both high- and low-income ones alike, mental health and psychosocial support services remain stigmatized and underfunded.

As COVID-19 heads into its third year, the impact on children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing is continuing to weigh heavily. According to the latest available data from UNICEF, globally more than 1.6 billion children have suffered some loss of education. The disruption to routines, education and recreation, as well as concern for family income and health, is leaving many young people feeling afraid, angry and concerned for their futures.

While the impact on children’s lives is incalculable, a new analysis by the London School of Economics in the report indicates that the lost contribution to economies due to mental disorders that lead to disability or death among young people is estimated at nearly $390 billion a year.