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“How Are You, Really?”

October 9, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting unprecendented strain on the mental health of the world's children and adolescents. UNICEF calls for greater investment in and greater access to mental health support.

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.

On September 16, 2020, children attend class in an improvised classroom in a house in Petare neighborhood, Venezuela's largest slum, in Caracas, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. © UNICEF/UNI377012/Parra/AFP

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:

Top photo: A young girl comforts her brother in Odienné, in northeastern Côte d'Ivoire. © UNICEF/UNI288498/Dejongh