Global Youth Mental Health

An Open Letter to Global Leaders: Now is the Time to Address Youth Global Mental Health

By Nazila Vali, Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist, Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships and Advocacy, UNICEF

The Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health is calling on public and private sector leaders to unite in a collective call for action. Our mission is clear: to rally for increased investment in mental health support for children and young people worldwide. Will you join us?

Across the globe, the toll of poor mental health among our youth is staggering. It’s a leading cause of death, disease, and disability, particularly among older adolescents. Yet, despite its pervasive impact, mental health remains chronically underfunded and stigmatized. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with other global challenges, such as humanitarian emergencies, the climate and ecological crisis, and the rise of non-communicable diseases, has only exacerbated this crisis.

Did you know that half of all mental health conditions manifest before the age of 14? These conditions not only affect emotional well-being but also impede physical health and limit opportunities for a fulfilling life. The statistics speak for themselves: the global mental health finance gap stands at a staggering $200 billion annually, with an estimated additional loss of nearly $390 billion in human capital each year due to adolescent mental health issues.

It’s time for change

We believe in a multi-sectoral approach to mental health, including where both public and private sectors play pivotal roles in shaping a brighter future for our youth. Prioritizing mental health in early stages not only improves quality of life but enhances educational outcomes, fostering long-term economic prosperity.

The private sector holds immense potential to drive meaningful change.

Firstly, there’s a pressing need to address the rising concerns regarding employee wellbeing. Recent studies from Deloitte highlight a concerning trend among Gen Z and millennial workers, where only about half rate their mental health at work as good or extremely good. Additionally, a significant portion, 40% of Gen Z and 35% of millennials, report feeling stressed all or most of the time. Recognizing and addressing these challenges within the workplace is not only essential for fostering a healthy and productive workforce but also for nurturing the mental health of future generations.

Secondly, the private sector is uniquely positioned to respond to the growing expectations from younger consumers. With Gen Z consumers increasingly prioritizing brands that align with their values, including their mental well-being, there’s a clear mandate for businesses to integrate mental health initiatives into their core strategies. McKinsey’s research underscores this trend, revealing a low positive life outlook among Gen Z consumers. By proactively addressing these concerns and prioritizing mental health in their offerings, companies can not only meet consumer expectations but also contribute to positive societal change.

Our call to action

To address this urgent issue, we are calling for increased global investment and action on child and youth mental health.

UNICEF and the Global Coalition of Youth Mental Health, along with wider organizations, are calling for global leaders across the public and private sectors to invest in:

  • Accessible Mental Health Support: Ensuring every child, young person and caregiver globally can access quality mental health care, especially focusing on community-based services that are effective, sustainable, and culturally appropriate.
  • Closing Knowledge Gaps: Improve understanding of child and youth mental health through better data and research, aiming to identify at-risk groups and effective interventions across different age groups and contexts.
  • Internal Organizational Strategies and Practices: Promote mental health and well-being within workplaces and communities by integrating mental health support into organizational practices and adapting products and services accordingly.

Now, how can you get involved?

We invite you* to sign and share our Open Letter. By adding your voice to ours, you’ll help UNICEF advocate for youth mental health at critical global events, shaping policies and practices that will impact generations to come.

Together, let’s pave the way for a world where every child and young person has the support they need to thrive.

* Organisations must have 50 or more employees to participate. See further FAQs here: On Our Minds | UNICEF Global Coalition for Youth Mental Well-being

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