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World Experts and Young Advocates to Gather in Florence to Address Global Mental Health Gaps

(10 October, Florence) – With suicide a leading global cause of death among young people aged 15 to 19, and growing awareness of the scale of mental health disorders among children and young people, on 7-9 November UNICEF and WHO will convene a global consultation on child and adolescent mental health. The consultation, organized by the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, will be held in Florence and inaugurate the Leading Minds for Children and Young People annual conference on the future of childhood.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization will co-host the conference, supported by other international organizations and several governments. Leading mental health experts and policy makers from around the world have committed to participate, along with youth leaders, and representatives from government, civil society organizations, foundations, business and the media.

Adolescent girls and boys enjoy interacting with each at an adolescent friendly health care corner in Dacope Upazila Health Complex, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

 

Organized as an innovative dialogue, the consultation is designed to spark new ideas, open pathways and accelerate practical solutions for global gaps in young people’s mental health. Young people will be at the forefront of the meeting and will comprise around 40 per cent of the participants. 

“The world is facing a mental health crisis among its youngest population. This requires a major coordinated global response which is youth-led, evidence- and rights-based,” said Priscilla Idele, Director a.i. of UNICEF Innocenti. 

A key focus of Leading Minds 2019 is changing the game on mental health and fostering healthy young minds. The consultation will identify the commitments, partnerships and resources required to support proven and promising solutions and breakthroughs for better mental health. Key areas for discussion will include programmes, platforms and systems for service delivery; understanding lived experiences; and exploration of technology and evidence. Leading Minds 2019 aims to generate visibility, break down entrenched stigma around mental health, help inform regional and national policy shifts, bolster resource allocations and galvanize collective action.

Worrying data

Mental health is emerging from the shadows as an urgent focus of global children's health and well-being. Mental health conditions account for 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury among the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents. Three out of four adult mental health problems begin during childhood and adolescence.

The theme of World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2019 is suicide prevention. According to 2017 data from the World Health Organization, suicide is among the top five causes of adolescent death globally. And evidence shows that it is just as much a risk for young people in in low- and middle-income countries as it is in rich ones.

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Beyond suicide, an array of mental ill health challenges affect many young people. Depression is the leading cause of disability among adolescent girls and the fourth highest cause of disability among adolescent boys. But even as the magnitude of the challenge becomes ever more apparent, so do the gaps in mental health resources, with only one of the WHO’s regions – Europe – having more than 11 mental health workers per 100,000 population, while Africa has less than 1 per 100,000.

Leading Minds 2019 will contribute to catalyzing a change in the way the world supports a and promotes healthy young minds, and establish a new blueprint for how to involve young people alongside adults to co-create solutions with them on the issues that affect them.

The key outcomes of the consultation will be synthesized and form the basis of UNICEF’s annual flagship report, The State of the World’s Children, which in 2020 will focus on the theme of child and adolescent mental health.

For more information about the Leading Minds conference at UNICEF Innocenti please contact: leadingminds@unicef.org