COVID-19 ravages more than our bodies. It is causing enormous stress to our mental health as well, especially for children. Even before the pandemic began, the world faced a growing mental health crisis. One billion people across the world are thought to have a mental or substance use disorder. Depression alone is on track to be the leading disease burden in the next ten years.
An estimated 1 in 5 of the world's children and adolescents experience mental health issues
Around 1 in 5 of the world’s children and adolescents experience some form of mental health condition. Common forms of mental illness in children and adolescents include anxiety, mood, attention and behavior disorders. Most somberly, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds.
Now, globally, mental health is being challenged like never before by COVID-19, affecting all parts of our societies. UNICEF knows that anxiety, depression and other stress-related problems threaten children’s ability to grow up healthy and happy. Failure to address mental health and psychosocial issues can stall children’s development and bar them from opportunities to participate meaningfully in society. That is why UNICEF works so hard to provide mental health and psychosocial support for children affected by crisis and conflict.
UNICEF is working to provide mental health and psychosocial support to children affected by crisis and conflict
Even in challenging circumstances, children and adolescents show remarkable resilience and ability to recover if appropriate support is provided. For too many, that support is not available. The fact is, mental health is a global issue, yet it remains stigmatized and underfunded in almost every country, rich or poor.
Because mental health is so important for children, UNICEF is making mental health a global priority. UNICEF calls on governments to invest in mental health and psychosocial support services, to ensure access for all children, young people and caregivers, especially the most vulnerable.
Governments must invest in mental health and psychosocial support services
This virus impacts all of us, one way or another, and it puts pressures on children that parents like me have never experienced. As parents we do what we can to help our kids; but we need governments around the world to ensure that all children have access to systems and services that protect and support their mental health.
Mental health resources for children, adolescents and families
Below are additional resources on mental health to learn more:
- Voices of Youth mental health guide for young people
- Coping with COVID-19 adolescent webinar with UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore
- How teenagers can protect their mental health
- Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school
- How to protect your family’s mental health during COVID-19
Top photo: A young girl comforts her brother in Odienné, in northeastern Côte d'Ivoire. © UNICEF/UNI288498/Dejongh