Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

World Mental Health Day – Focus on Youth

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Every year this date calls our attention to a particular mental health priority. This year’s focus is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.

The focus on young people is fitting given that half of all mental disorders begin by age 14 and given that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 14 to 29-year-olds. Mental ill health among young people is a serious concern. The good news is that serious attention is being directed to addressing the situation, much of it led by young people.

1. United for Global Mental Health. Let’s begin with an organization newly launched by CEO Elisha London, a young woman who is passionate about mental health advocacy to raise awareness about the burden of mental illness globally. Their vision is a world world where everyone, everywhere, has someone to turn to in support of their mental health. Click here or on the image above to watch “New Mindset” –  a 90-second animation developed by United for Global Mental Health and Aardman’s Danny Capozzi that captures why now is the #TimeToAct.

2. Active Minds. Now in its fifteenth year, Active Minds has more than 450 student-led chapters at over 600 colleges and high schools around the United States. Active Minds students organize programs that reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, create communities of support peers, provide emotional support, help connect others to services, and ultimately save lives. Such student-run efforts have proven effective at increasing awareness of mental-health issues, reducing stigma and promoting helping behaviors and supportive communities.

3. Heads together. This week, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first public appearance together after the birth of Prince Henry. What was important enough to take them away from their young family? The Global Mental Health Summit in London, #GlobalMHSummit, where political leaders, researchers and policy-makers from around the world gathered with one common goal: better mental health for all. The Royals launched the Heads Together campaign last year, and their ongoing efforts will largely focus on young people. Heads Together will leverage technology to develop a mental health text messaging service and an early intervention program, Mentally Healthy Schools, to help primary school teachers support their students’ mental wellbeing.

4. Crisis Text Line. Technology has the power to reach young people where they are, anywhere in the world. In the US, Crisis Text Line provides access to free, 24/7 support and information for people who have urgent mental health needs. Anyone can text Crisis Text Line, but young people are the ones who make most use of it. It works like this: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime, about any type of crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform. Within four months of its launch in 2013, Crisis Text Line had heard from young people from all 295 area codes in the United States. Similar initiatives exist and are underway in other countries.

5. My Mind, Our Humanity. This campaign is being led by an international group of young people in partnership with the Lancet Commission. It has three core aims: 1) to reduce stigma and promote a view of mental health as a fundamental part of being human; 2) to integrate young people’s voices, values and experiences into public debate in global mental health; and 3) to educate young people and inspire them to promote well-being in their communities. Putting forth a blueprint for action to promote mental wellbeing, prevent mental health problems, and enable recovery from mental disorders, the Lancet Commission and My Mind, Our Humanity promise to move the needle on mental health around the world. You can follow My Mind, Our Humanity on Instagram.

World Mental Health Day: Focus on Young People in a Changing World. The mental health needs are serious, and young people are seriously making a difference. 

Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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