Open discussion with young people about mental health
Who do you talk to about what's on your mind? This was one of the questions young people raised during the first “walk and talk” event in Strumica
Skopje, 13 October 2023 - UNICEF and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy with vlaunched a walk and talk caravan to open discussion with children and young people on mental health and promote an inclusive culture that encourages people to talk about mental health issues and seek help when they need it.
Starting with Strumica and Valandovo on 13 October, the caravan will visit in the forthcoming weeks Probishtip, Kratovo, Shtip, Kochani, Tetovo, Gostivar, Vinica, Blatec, Prilep, Bitola, Kumanovo, Veles, Kavadarci and Skopje.
Conceptualised as a youth walking route with diverse creative activities and opportunities to talk with each other, the caravan will offer a forum to young people to raise issues and jointly look for solutions. They will have an opportunity to engage in discussion with UNICEF, representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, diplomatic core, and mental health experts.
"Destigmatizing, coming together, moving and speaking out is a way to build healthy young people who will be the drivers of our society and our social protection system. The social protection system is one that should take care of well-being, but also one that encourages, instigates and motivates. That's why we are here today. Because young people change our society, destigmatize and step forward. Our ultimate goal is to create a positive well-being through which we can reach our full potential," said Jovana Trenchevska, Minister of Labor and Social Work.
“Many children and adolescents struggle in silence, because of stigma or lack of initiatives that promote and protect mental health and care for those most in need.” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative, “No one should have to deal with mental health challenges on their own. We should make sure children and young people get the support when they need it. It starts with one moment, one conversation, one question: What’s on your mind?”
Youth is a key period for the development of social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. This is a period when mental health can be affected by various factors that could lead to increased stress, such as pressure to belong to peer groups, gender stereotypes, problematic social media influence, poor quality of family life and socio-economic conditions.
Taking into account the rapid social changes, the fast development of digital technologies, the Covid19 pandemic, as well as the absence of defined and sustainable programmes for supporting mental health among young people, it is necessary to raise awareness about early intervention and detection of common mental problems among the young population.
A UNICEF supported survey in North Macedonia shows that one in three adolescents reported experiencing symptoms of depression, girls being six times more likely to report symptoms of depression than boys. As many as 42 per cent of adolescents experienced moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. However, more than half of adolescents who reported a need for mental health services did not seek out such assistance.
Even when they seek assistance, there are no sufficient quality mental health services in North Macedonia. In addition to specialized institutions, it is equally important to have programmes and activities that will promote the importance of prevention and early care of youth mental health. An early detection of mental health problems prevents exacerbation and chronic health issues which are addressed at tertiary health level.
The events are based on the concept of walking together to promote physical activity and mental wellness benefits associated with outdoor activities. Walking puts the mind at ease, boosts mood, lowers risk of depression and other stress and anxiety issues. Paired with peers and friends, these activities can be added benefit of social connection, which helps young people stay grounded and feel supported.
The events come as a result of a consultative process with young people which were organized in partnership with the Institute for Good Governance and Euro-Atlantic Perspectives (IDUEP).
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.mk.