World Health Organization
World Health Organization
Essential Nutrition Actions: improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutritionWorld Health Organization
Adolescent Mental Health: Mapping actions of nongovernmental organizations and other international development organizations
Adolescents are generally perceived as a healthy age group, and yet 20% of them, in any given year, experience a mental health problem, most commonly depression or anxiety. In many settings, suicide is among the leading causes of death among young people
Mental well-being is fundamental to good quality of life. Happy and confident adolescents are most likely to grow into happy and confident adults, who in turn contribute to the health and well-being of nations (2). Emotional health and well-being among young people have implications for self-esteem, behaviour, attendance at school, educational achievement, social cohesion and future health and life chances
Young people with a good sense of mental well-being possess problem-solving skills, social competence and a sense of purpose. These assets help them rebound from any setbacks that might occur, thrive in the face of poor circumstances, avoid risk-taking behaviour and generally continue a productive life
Many factors have an impact on adolescents' mental ability to achieve and sustain a state of mental well-being; these factors can operate at the level of the individual, family, school or neighbourhood and at a broader societal level (6). Risk factors for mental disorders include, but are not limited to, poverty, social exclusion, violence, peer rejection, isolation and lack of family support. Protective factors for mental well-being are linked to cohesion at community level, family well-being and individual behaviours and skills, access to adolescent-friendly social services, including health services, and macro-policies (such as social transfers and minorities’ integration) (7). The more risks young people experience, the worse their developmental outcomes are likely to be and the higher the probability of experiencing psychological distress or mental health disorders.
On the contrary, the more opportunities young people have in childhood and adolescence to experience and accumulate the positive effects of protective factors that outweigh negative risk factors, the more likely they are to sustain mental health and well-being in later life
Accumulated evidence shows that strengthening protective factors in schools, homes and local communities, as well as improving quality of mental health care for adolescents, can make important contributions to improving developmental outcomes of vulnerable young people.
International organizations have undertaken initiatives towards improved adolescents' emotional and social well-being, promoting actions at policy level as well as streamlining mental health interventions within primary health care, community and school-based programmes
Nevertheless, their implementation seems far from adequate in most low-resource countries, and international data on effectiveness and coverage of adolescent mental health interventions are scant
This project was initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to produce an overview of initiatives being undertaken by international organizations (including UN agencies, international research institutions and NGOs) with the goal of improving adolescents’ mental health and psychosocial well-being in the period 2000–2010.
The specific objectives were as follows:
- Provide baseline data on actions by international cooperation actors in the field of adolescent mental health.
- Identify gaps in policy frameworks, training tools and implementation of interventions for the promotion of psychosocial well-being and mental health care in adolescents.
- Identify challenges in implementation of policies and scale up of adolescent mental health interventions as well as opportunities for the delivery of future services for adolescent mental health promotion and care.
- Promote an exchange of knowledge among UN agencies, international research institutions and NGOs on initiatives for adolescent mental health.