Health

Imagining a Future where Youth Mental Health Matters

Feeling sad, stressed or anxious while coping with COVID-19 is normal. It's not only the fear and anxiety about the coronavirus disease but also being away from schools, friends and relatives. Adjusting to new ways of learning and working is hard. But guess what? You are not alone.

As part of UNICEF's Youth Mediathon, a group of young content creators from Bulgaria, Canada, Indonesia, Ireland and the United States of America developed this multimedia project about the importance of reimagining the future of mental health and wellbeing.

Download their full project here: 

 

Credit: Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird (Writer) Joy Xing (Photographer) Anna-Maria Goranova (Interview Outreach) Gracia Angelia (Graphic Designer) Jax Richards (Graphic Designer), with special thanks to their mentor, Georgina Thompson.

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Image by Joy Xing
"A future where mental health is not stigmatised and that speaking about such issues won't be taboo is what we should all envision"

By Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird

Simply existing in today’s world isn’t easy, this is particularly true for young people. The pressures of climate change, widespread economic downturn, the current COVID-19 pandemic and the pressures of social media are all the more compounded during adolescence, when children and youth are also grappling with the trials and tribulations of growing up.

Even as an adult in my early 20s, I find these things hard to cope with.

Adolescence is a formative period in life. Prolonged stress and anguish can have negative repercussions on mental health during this transition into adulthood. Many mental health issues are identified during this period and left unaddressed can continue and worsen as the mind continues to develop.

Mental health issues can affect anyone at any point in life. However, the occurrence of mental health issues among young people is especially common. In September 2020, the World Health Organisation reported that an estimated 10-20% of adolescents globally experience mental health conditions but that most of these cases go unreported and untreated. Depression and anxiety are at the top of the list of mental illnesses affecting this age group. According to the same article, suicide is one of the leading causes of death amongst 15-19 year olds across the globe.

It’s not hard to see why young people are so affected when considering the bullying, isolation, discrimination, xenophobia, and alienation that children and adolescents are exposed to in their daily lives online or in real life. For adolescents who are made to feel different, it can be even more overwhelming. 

In addition to these external factors that impact young people’s mental health, youth of today hold a heavy, personal responsibility to fix the current state of the world. Great youth activists have emerged to speak out about injustices but the onus should not be on them to fix the problems inherited from previous generations who have failed to protect the planet and its people.

There are a number of potential causes for the rising number of mental health problems and suicides among young people. Stigma, lack of awareness, and a lack of mental health support and resources are among them 

Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) addresses a child’s right to access to healthcare for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. This refers to both physical and mental health care.

Accessing support proves even more difficult because of the stigma that exists around mental health conditions and the cost involved in doing so. Combatting this stigma is the first task that needs to be addressed on the journey to create a better future for adolescent mental health.

Providing mental health support to all who need them is easier said than done. Ensuring mental health support does not completely resolve the issue of the poor mental health that adolescents are experiencing in the modern world. Social inequalities prevent people from accessing the health care and support that they need. The absence or lack of mental health care in some areas of the world is a barrier for ensuring the provisions of Article 24.of the CRC.

A future where mental health is not stigmatised and that speaking about such issues won’t be taboo is what we should all envision. Promotion of healthy mental wellbeing and awareness- raising of the different mental health issues that affect adolescents in today’s world is essential to ensure a better future for everyone’s wellbeing.

Every child has the right to survive and thrive, and, in an ideal world, mental health issues would not be stigmatised and mental health supports and provisions would be unlimited.

There are no quick fixes for these issues and the road to ensuring promotion and protection of mental health for every child will be a long and difficult one but it is vital to do to ensure a better future for every child.


 

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Graphic by Gracia Angelia
Zoom to read all the information in this graphic.
Interviews by Anna-Maria Goranova
DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE TALKING ABOUT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WITH YOUR CLOSE ONES?
"Most of the time I wish I could talk freely and openly about my mental health but actually I cannot find the right words to express what I am feeling. however, if I find the courage to say how I feel, I end up being misunderstood." Aleksandra Vasileva.

"Not really. I'm a pretty reserved person and quite self- conscientious. therefore I find it difficult to talk freely about personal topics. I’m trying to work on that because I find it as an issue which makes me anxious but I still can’t find a way how." Anna Koleva.
DO YOU THINK THAT TEENAGERS’ MENTAL HEALTH IS BEING NEGLECTED BY OLDER PEOPLE?
"I think that it is often neglected by them, because they are not in your shoes, they believe that as you are younger, your problems are not of a great importance and sometimes tend to make you feel like you are exaggerating. I've been in such situations but I think that the best thing to do then is to find the right person who you are sure that will be a good listener and will provide you with an adequate advice." Eva Petricheva.
ON THE DAILY BASIS, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU THINK IT AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH THE MOST?
"I think mental health is mostly affected by what others say, what we see on the magazines and social media and how we perceive it. It is affected by how we see ourselves and if we are being good to ourselves or we treat ourselves harshly." Miryana Ivanova.

 

Want to learn more about mental health? Check out these resources by UNICEF and Voices of Youth:

Five tips for young people feeling anxious

How to take care of yourself during stressful times

COVID-19 and Youth mental health

ABOUT THIS GROUP

 

Gracia Angelia is a 16-year-old content creator from Indonesia who is determined to fight cyber bullying through her social media channels, especially TikTok,

"Since I know what it feels to be bullied, I want people to be aware of bullying cases, to be aware that it affects to someone’s mind, someone’s mental health."

Anna-Maria Goranova is a 17-year-old girl from Ruse, Bulgaria. The three words that would describe her best are positive, motivated and open-minded. She is passionate about dancing, journalism and art. She creates content on Youtube channel.

"As a person who uses social media on a daily basis, I have been seeing fake news all over the place and I was sick and tired of it. So this year i participated in the first Bulgarian online hackathon about media literacy. My team's project was about preventing people from the fake new and teaching them how to spot the differences between a fake and a real article. It was an amazing experience and i learned many new things."

Niamh Ní Hoireabhaird  began writing about disability issues a few years ago and she discovered the power of using her voice to raise awareness of issues that she perceives to be important. She keeps a blog where people share their stories and experiences with disabilities, and has also written for many publications.

"I believe that educating the youth (especially about disability and ableism in society) will help to create a more diverse and accessible future - my goal."

Joy King is a 16-year-old Chinese-Canadian filmmaker and photographer from Markham, Ontario. Among her passions are classical history, language and mythology. She loves using these themes to enrich the impact of her photography, cinematography and directing work. Check out her Instagram account.

"I moved from China to Canada in 2013, marking the most difficult turning point in my life. The mistreatment and hostility towards immigrants has deeply scarred my family and all POC communities across the western world. With heightened racism during quarantine, I’ve strongly advocated for justice through content."

Jax Richards is a 20-year American old college student studying public policy and economics and has been a youth media manager and content creator for different organizations, crafting on local, state, and national projects.

"The issue I care most about is child maltreatment. With COVID-19, across the world, child abuse rates have dramatically increased. Overall, many nations have not put Children’s health, education, and wellbeing as a priority, and it’s something that will only worsen as time goes on. I’ve founded a nonprofit to provide a platform for activists, foster youth, and childhood abuse survivors in order to share their stories and advocate change. I also mentor with various youth nonprofits because I believe setting an example, and I love the personal relations I build."

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