The state of global mental health of children

The state of global mental health  of children
Photo by Luke Pennystan / Unsplash

This abstract is based report entitled, “ The state of the world’s children 2021, On My Mind — promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health” published by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). For their research the team has reached 116 countries and over 47 million children, adolescents and family care givers and have organized mental health awareness camps.

The recent times have brought the challenges of mental care to upfront. The challenges faced by everyone including children, adults and elderly have soared up during the pandemic. On the one hand one is anxious about his/her changed office routines, to others who have no place to go to/talk to. The unprecedented stress levels became difficult to ignore.

This report demands rampant and urgent investment of both financial and humane interventions to cater mental health care needs of adolescents and children. It is important to raise our voices for the myths surrounded around mental health. This is also because of the crunch of the mental health care workforce. There are fewer than 0.1 psychiatrists per 1,00,000 population to treat children and adolescents. The picture is however skewed in the favour of high income countries where the rate is 5.5 per 1,00,000.

Children have suffered a great deal during the pandemic specially in the lockdown periods. They have no school to go to, less physical activities, more screen time, ed tech, no schools meal programs, etc. Many children have been pushed to poverty and there was a considerable increase in child abuse, child labour and violence. All of this have impacted their mental well being as there was no stop to some form of phycological distress. It is evident that investment (workforce) is quite low in this area.

According to The World Health Organization, of 1.2 billion,13% of adolescents (10–19 years) live with a diagnosed mental health disorder (2020), the prevalence highest in Middle East, North Africa, North America & Western European regions. There are 89 million adolescent boys and 77 million adolescent girls live with a mental disorder.

The biggest challenges are anxiety and depression which constitute about 40% of all the diagnosed mental health disorders. Followed by anxiety and depressive disorders there are conduct disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Idiopathic developmental intellectual disability & others. The extremity of taking one’s own life is also threatening as more than1 people die from suicide every 11 minutes. There are 46,000 children & adolescent end their ow lives every year. It is the 5th cause of deaths among adolescents. Mental health challenges and its resultant loss in human capital is also striking. The loss is estimated at US $ 387.2 billion (PPP). Cost of anxiety is US$ 91,620, Child behavioural disorder is US$ 76,980, Depression is US$ 74,410, etc.

It is echoed very now and then that remove the stigma and treat mental health care as important as we treat and seek physical health care. The past lockdowns have taught a great deal on how to balance the juggle of work and life by having a sound mental health. Thus, it should be on part of policy makers to minimize the risk and maximise the mental health care protective factors.

Risk and protective factors

It is important to understand and see what factors affect children’s mental well being. For example there are three influence areas, where he/she adapt most learning and things, like, a place where they live with either parents or care givers, school or their place of learning and at last social determinants {poverty, disaster/conflict, discrimination}. This report thus establishes a strong framework of COMMITEMENT, COMMUNICATION & ACTION to guide the actions.