Mental health in a changing world

It's World Mental Health Day

Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at great charitable organisations such as Men's Pie Club and Coping Through Football, helping those with mental health issues.

The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day is “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

What's the mental health status of young people across the world?

  • Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated
  • Depression is the third leading cause of mental illness in adolescents
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds
  • Harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents is a major issue and can lead to risky behaviours such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving
  • 83% of young people say bullying has a negative impact on their self-esteem
  • Among nearly 100 transgender youth, ages 12 to 24, 51% reported ever thinking about suicide, while 30% had attempted it at least once in their lives.
  • Eating disorders are also of concern.

Read more about adolescent mental health here.

Fortunately, there's a growing recognition of the importance of helping young people build mental resilience to cope with life. Promoting and protecting young people's health benefits not only them but also benefits the economy and society as a whole, with healthy young adults able to make greater contributions to the workforce, their families, communities and society as a whole.

Much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age, to help prevent mental illness and to manage and recover from mental illness. Prevention begins with being aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness. Teaching life skills to deal with everyday challenges is one way. Psychological support from schools and community settings is another.

The World Health Organisation also believes that investment by governments and the involvement of the social, health and education sectors in integrated, evidence-based programmes for young people's mental health is essential. This investment should be linked to programmes to raise awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and to help peers, parents and teachers know how to support their friends, children and students.

There’s also an excellent report (see below) from the World Mental Health Foundation that looks at the topics relevant to teenage mental health and how to deal with them, including:

  • Bullying (including cyberbullying)
  • Major mental illness in young people including depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc
  • Suicide and the factors affecting it
  • Gender identify and mental wellbeing
  • Building resilience, reducing stigma.

But it's not just young people

The global burden of disease attributable to mental disorders has risen in all countries in the context of major demographic, environmental and socio-political transitions. There's an excellent report by the Lancet Commission on global mental health, that's a must-read for anyone interested in mental health, defining it through the human lifespan and the steps that need to be taken to improve mental health across the world.

See also Dr Justin Varney's fantastic infographic on UK mental health statistics.