Mental health of adolescents: time to act

PACE’s rapporteur on the health needs of adolescents in Europe, Baroness Doreen Massey (United Kingdom, SOC), speaking on the eve of World Mental Health Day (10 October), has urged governments to take urgent action to deal with a growing mental health crisis among the young.

“Mental health problems amongst adolescents are increasing”, she pointed out. “Up to 20 per cent of adolescents now experience such issues – including depressive disorders, anxiety, behavioural problems and self-harm – yet too often they remain under-diagnosed and under-treated. Tragically, suicide is now the third leading cause of death amongst 15 to 19-year-olds.”

“As responsible individuals – parents, friends and professionals – we must all do what we can to help, but ultimately the mental health crisis is a societal problem, which needs a systemic solution. I call on parliaments and governments to invest in comprehensive, long-term strategies to support the mental health of young people. These should involve health and education professionals, decision-makers, researchers and civil society working together with adolescents themselves, who know their needs best.”

Baroness Massey pointed out that mental health is an essential precondition for the realisation of human rights and is central to the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“States need to formulate approaches to adolescent mental health which are human rights based, non-patronising, inclusive, collaborative and which counteract stigma or discrimination. The future of our societies belongs to young people. Let’s give them the care and support that they need today.”