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Time to Act: 3 Ways the Business Community Can Take Action to Help Improve Youth Mental Health

By Victoria Noble, Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist, UNICEF

In response to the growing mental health crisis among youth, the UNICEF-led Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health issues an urgent call to businesses worldwide. Advocating for increased investment, public awareness, and supportive workplace cultures, this coalition strives to foster environments that prioritize and protect youth mental health, aiming to benefit 30 million individuals by 2030.

A call to action by members of the, UNICEF led, Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health

The mental health of young people globally was a major concern before COVID-19. Now, with the pandemic having exacerbated many mental health issues, it can no longer be ignored.

For all countries, it is past the time to prioritize youth mental health and provide young people and their caregivers with the support they need – and the private sector has a significant role to play.

Mental health and well-being are fundamental components of a child’s healthy development and future. However, the State of the World’s Children report found that more than 1 in 7 adolescents aged 10–19 globally is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder. Almost 46,000 adolescents die from suicide each year, among the top five causes of death for this age group. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation, making it urgent to act – now more than ever. Yet, mental health remains grossly underfunded worldwide. In addition to the incalculable effect on human lives, society pays a high economic price for this neglect – nearly US$390 billion worth of lost human potential that could go towards national economies each year.

In April 2022, UNICEF, with the support of the Z Zurich Foundation, launched the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health. The Coalition is a strategic alliance of companies including Jo Malone London, Spotify, Zurich Insurance Group and Z Zurich Foundation that are pooling their resources to address the increasing global burden of mental disorders in youth. Together, we aim to strengthen young people’s social and emotional skills and provide a supportive environment for mental health, benefitting 30 million young people in 30 countries by 2030.

Faced with the urgency of increasing funding and action for mental health, we, members of the Global Coalition are issuing an urgent call to the wider business community to act now in support of youth mental health. Children and young people are our future, and we should be doing everything we can to invest in the support they need.

We wish to attain a supportive environment for youth mental health through:

  • Increasing funding and resources for mental health programming, with a focus on young people and caregivers.
  • Increasing public awareness of the importance of young people’s mental health and calling on governments to act
  • Improving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that support better business practices related to workplace mental health

Concretely, we are calling on our business community to:

1. Enhance investment in young people’s mental health.

We urge all businesses to support national and international efforts to mobilize funds dedicated to the mental health of young people and their caregivers, particularly in resource-strained or volatile environments such as refugee situations, where it is most needed. We encourage the business community to support the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Well-being and provide resources to youth mental health programmes, including through UNICEF.

2. Use its influence

Advocate externally and internally for support of young people’s mental health, through our combined networks, platforms and other communication channels. By joining forces, we can play a key role in building awareness and driving action among business leaders, decision makers and other stakeholders on the importance of supporting youth mental health.

3. Model supportive workplace culture

Become leaders in creating a workplace culture that prioritizes mental health and well-being for employees. Together, we have a responsibility to improve our business practices to support our employees’ mental health (and, indirectly, their families’) by ensuring a respectful, safe and healthy workplace.

Together, we can make real change for millions of young people around the world by creating supportive environments that promote and protect mental health. We are calling on businesses to join us and become members of the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health.

Signed by the members of the UNICEF-led Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health:

  • Jo Dancey, Senior Vice President Global General Manager, Jo Malone London
  • Elizabeth Nieto, Global Head of Equity and Impact, Spotify
  • Gary Shaughnessy, Chair, Z Zurich Foundation
  • Linda Freiner, Group Head of Sustainability, Zurich Insurance Group
  • Zeinab Hijazi, Senior Mental Health Technical Advisor, UNICEF

For more information on the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health, reach out to UNICEF’s Victoria Noble.

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