International Conference on Youth Mental Health and Psychosocial Support
Your Excellency Minister Djukic Dejanovic, Minister Grujicic, Minister Zigmanov, Assistant Minister Antonijevic, Vidojevic and Grujicic Ambassador Melsom, my dear friend Dr. Skano, Dr Pejovic Milovancevic, dear young people and partners, ladies and gentlemen - good morning! And welcome to the second International Conference on Youth Mental Health and Psychosocial Support.
It is truly encouraging to see so many of you here in person and all that join us online. This clearly re-affirms the importance of the topic and shows a deep commitment to addressing the vital issue of mental health of youth and adolescents in Serbia.
Although we almost forgot about the COVID-19 pandemic, let me bring you back to its time. COVID brought a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe. This was the moment when we clearly realized that the mental well-being of adolescents and youth was further endangered. Fear and Anxiety lead to short term but also long term psychosocial and mental health implications for children and adolescents. It is estimated that more than 1 in 7 adolescents lives with a diagnosed mental disorder globally. Almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top 5 causes of death for their age group.
I vividly recall the heart-breaking words of Jovan from Belgrade - 17-year-old who told me in 2021 that he felt so “lost”, struggling to focus, experiencing unexplained bouts of anger, and believing he couldn’t take it anymore. And that he could not talk with anyone because he was ashamed.
And I knew that Jovan’s experience was not an isolated one. UNICEF’s survey echoed Jovan’s words. It showed that 18% of children and youth in Serbia observed a decline in their mental well-being during the pandemic. Furthermore, 44 % of adolescents experience significant challenges related to concentration. The most common mental health problem that parents saw was irritability.
We are strong in data but behind these figures stay Jovan, Milica, Ana, Milos…our children! And our children deserve minimum MH service package.
That’s why, in 2021, UNICEF, in collaboration with government partners, embarked on a mission to elevate public awareness about the importance of mental health and to inspire adolescents to reach out for help when they need it. Our endeavours and innovative approach were internationally acknowledged and honoured – we won the global UNICEF Inspire Award for our campaign “Kako si? Ali stvarno?.” The first step has been done.
And then, the school shooting happened. This tragic incident highlighted the importance and urgency of the new approach to mental health support of young people in Serbia. It also raised new questions regarding the ability of the system to respond, the imperative for cross-sectoral cooperation, and the need to empower professionals with enhanced capacities.
Tragedies happen, but we must ensure that a responsive system is in place to address them. And that we are equipped to work on preventing them.
Taking care of our own mental health is taking care of the wellbeing of the society as a whole. By fortifying our mental health resources and support systems, we not only safeguard individuals but also contribute to the community’s resilience.
Allow me to commend the authorities in Serbia for taking an important step towards enhancing the mental health system for adolescents and youth in Serbia by signing today the Memorandum of Understanding between 6 ministries.
UNICEF, has been and will continue to be here to provide its full support so that no child and no young person is “left for later”. And in this, we are joining efforts with our sister agency WHO.
Let us begin this conference with a shared sense of purpose, hope, and determination.
Kontakti za medije.
Prisutni smo u više od 190 zemalja i teritorija, a kroz sve što radimo promovišemo prava i dobrobit dece, posebno one koja su najugroženija i isključena. U potpunosti se finansiramo od dobrovoljnih priloga pojedinaca, država i vlada, fondacija i kompanija.