What our eyes have been seeing for a long time has been confirmed by a Unicef study published this week in which they state that 1 in 7 adolescents is experiencing a mental health problem at this time. 1 in 7. An average of 4 students per classroom is suffering from a psychological problem. In this same report, Unicef warns of the need for governments to take this problem seriously and reflect in their budgets the commitment to care for the mental health of young people. Currently, only 2 percent of government health budgets are dedicated to taking care of psychological health.
The figure is scary, but more scary to be aware of the implication that one in seven adolescents has a mental health problem. Non-intervention in mental health problems in childhood and adolescence is a very powerful factor that predicts with great precision that these young people will be adults with mental health problems. Spontaneous remission is the exception rather than the norm in these cases. Presenting a psychological problem at this stage of life not only predisposes them to continue experiencing these problems in adulthood, but also has an important effect on all areas of the affected person’s life. Often these young people fail academically, see their interpersonal relationships deteriorated, suffer family problems and sometimes can induce substance use or risk behaviors.
And here we talk about suicide. Because the fact that a young person feels extremely bad and understands that their pain is unmanageable (when they do not receive treatment it is easier for this to happen), the idea of suicide as a way to stop suffering gains strength. The same Unicef report warns of the rise in suicide cases: almost 46,000 adolescents do so each year, being one of the five main causes of death for this age group.
Sometimes it is necessary to hit rock bottom to be able to emerge stronger and that is what I think has happened with the psychological care of children and adolescents. It took a pandemic to bring out the reality of the mental health of the very young, once a taboo subject because it has been popularly thought that “children cannot be depressed” because “they have no problems to worry about” .
In particular, in my office I have seen the care I give to children and adolescents multiply by two, also seeing how the cases of suicidal ideas, self-harm and eating behavior problems increase. I only ask you, mothers and fathers, not to trivialize the emotional pain of your children and that at any warning sign, go to a professional. Because adolescence is a very unstable stage but at the same time it is the perfect time to accompany the injured young man and help him to be a happy adult.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.