The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the mental health of a generation of children. But the pandemic may represent the tip of a mental health iceberg – an iceberg we have ignored for far too long. The State of the World’s Children 2021 examines child, adolescent and caregiver mental health. It focuses on risks and protective factors at critical moments in the life course and delves into the social determinants that shape mental health and well-being.
It calls for commitment, communication and action as part of a comprehensive approach to promote good mental health for every child, protect vulnerable children and care for children facing the greatest challenges.
In nearly every part of the world, be it rich or poor countries, mental health conditions – and the lack of caring responses – cause significant suffering for children and young people and are a top cause of death, disease and disability, especially for older adolescents.
An estimated 13 per cent of adolescents aged 10–19 is estimated to live with a diagnosed mental disorder.
Our inability to address mental health can be measured by how little societies are willing to talk about or understand it. The fear of harsh words, laughter and abuse that underline the stigma around mental health make it harder for children, adolescents and caregivers to express their feelings.