• Joe Cross-Sarvis

Adolescence and Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2018),


One in six people are aged 10–19 years.

Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years.

Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.

Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19 year olds.

The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.

Mental health promotion and prevention are key to helping adolescents thrive.




Mental health conditions in adolescents-


Worldwide, it is estimated that 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. Signs of poor mental health can be overlooked for a number of reasons, such as a lack of knowledge or awareness about mental health among health workers, or stigma preventing them from seeking help. Globally, depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability among all adolescents; anxiety is the eighth leading cause. Emotional disorders can be profoundly disabling to an adolescent’s functioning, affecting schoolwork and attendance. Withdrawal or avoidance of family, peers or the community can exacerbate isolation and loneliness. At its worse, depression can lead to suicide.



Suicide and self-harm-


It is estimated that 62 000 adolescents died in 2016 as a result of self-harm. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15–19 years). Nearly 90% of the world’s adolescents live in low- or middle-income countries but more than 90% of adolescent suicides are among adolescents living in those countries. Suicide attempts can be impulsive or associated with a feeling of hopelessness or loneliness. Risk factors for suicide are multifaceted, including harmful use of alcohol, abuse in childhood, stigma against help-seeking, barriers to accessing care, and access to means. Communication through digital media about suicidal behavior is an emerging concern for this age group.



Early detection and treatment-


It is crucial to address the needs of adolescents with defined mental health conditions. Avoiding institutionalization and over-medicalization, prioritizing non-pharmacological approaches, and respecting the rights of children in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments are key for adolescents.



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