Mental health is an essential part of our overall health and well-being. It is the foundation for our thoughts and emotions, our ability to cope with stress and adversity, and our ability to form and maintain relationships with others. Sadly, mental health is often overlooked, stigmatized, and neglected, particularly in low and middle-income countries. World Mental Health Day is observed every year on 10th October to raise awareness about mental health issues and advocate for better care and support for those who need it. Looking ahead to World Mental Health Day 2023, youth can unite and make a difference by advocating for mental health as a universal human right.
- Mental health as a human right
Mental health is a fundamental human right, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of mental health, without discrimination, stigma, or coercion. This means that governments must ensure that mental health services are available, accessible, and of good quality. Additionally, they must address social determinants of mental health such as poverty, violence, and inequality. Youth can advocate for the inclusion of mental health in national and international agendas, policies, and programs. They can demand that resources are allocated to the prevention, treatment, and support of mental health issues.
- The global burden of mental health
Mental health issues affect millions of people worldwide, with depression and anxiety being the most common. According to WHO, around 792 million people globally have a mental health disorder, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the global mental health crisis, with increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Youth can raise awareness of mental health issues and challenge stigma and discrimination. They can support mental health literacy and promote positive mental health practices, such as self-care, resilience, and empathy.
- Youth and mental health
Youth are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues due to the challenges of growing up, such as identity formation, peer pressure, academic stress, and social media use. Moreover, youth often face structural barriers to mental health care, such as lack of information, long waiting times, and insufficient resources. Youth can raise their own mental health awareness and seek support and help when needed. They can also participate in peer support groups and online forums to share experiences and coping strategies. They can advocate for youth-specific mental health services that are accessible, affordable, and confidential.
- Youth-led initiatives for mental health
Youth-led initiatives can be powerful drivers of change for mental health. They can empower young people to lead the way in raising awareness, reducing stigma, and advocating for systemic change. Youth can organize events and campaigns to mark World Mental Health Day 2023, such as marches, webinars, art exhibitions, and social media campaigns. They can collaborate with mental health professionals, educators, policymakers, and civil society organizations to amplify their voices and drive social change. They can also develop innovative solutions for mental health issues, such as digital apps, peer counseling, and creative therapies.
- Youth and social accountability
Youth can hold governments accountable for their mental health commitments and actions. They can monitor and assess the implementation of mental health policies and programs and demand transparency, participation, and feedback. They can use social accountability tools, such as citizen monitoring, budget tracking, and community scorecards, to voice their needs and concerns and hold decision-makers accountable. They can join youth-led movements for global mental health, such as the Youth Mental Health Coalition and the Global Mental Health Peer Network, to connect with peers, share knowledge, and advocate for change.
- Supporting Youth Efforts for World Mental Health Day 2023
There are several ways we can support youth efforts for World Mental Health Day 2023. We can start by engaging with youth-led campaigns and initiatives, supporting and donating to mental health organisations and charities, and using our social media platforms to highlight and promote mental health awareness. We can also encourage policymakers to invest in mental health programs and services, raise awareness in our communities, and support mental health check-ups for ourselves and those we love.
Mental health is a universal human right that requires collective action and solidarity. Youth can play a critical role in shaping the future of mental health by advocating for better care and support, promoting mental health literacy and positive practices, developing innovative solutions, and holding governments accountable. World Mental Health Day 2023 presents an opportunity for youth to unite and make a difference through their voices, actions, and initiatives. Let us ensure that mental health is not overlooked or neglected, but rather recognized and respected as a fundamental human right for all.