August 12th was set aside every year to celebrate International Youth Day and to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. Youth day is one of the many extensive efforts of the United Nations to help member states reach out to their youth and understand all challenges faced by them. Besides, it aims to promote ways to actively engage youth in making positive contributions to their communities.
The theme for 2014 celebration is “Youth and Mental Health. Youth with mental health conditions can often experience stigma and discrimination, which in turn can lead to exclusion and/or discourage people from seeking help for fear of being negatively ‘labeled’.
Young people are generally assumed to have good health, which includes a good mental health which is important to their healthy development. However, mental health problems and disorders are becoming increasingly common among young people. These include mental retardation, hyperkinetic disorders, autism etc.
Furthermore, Mental health problems in young people among others include antisocial disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, substance abuse etc. and are often characterised by patterns of behaviour, feeling or thinking which interfere significantly with the individuals’ ability to work, to fulfill adequately his/her expected role, to get along with other people or to enjoy life resulting in risky behavior such as engaging in unprotected sex and dangerous driving, disruptive behaviour, physical inactivity, poor academic performance including school dropout and even suicide.
Although mental health is the 9th component of Primary Health Care, the implementation is fraught with problems hence nothing is being done about the mental health problems of young people. Reasons for this include dearth of mental health professionals in ensuring its practicalization. Presently, mental health services for young people are being run with adult mental health services. Thus, young people who need admission are admitted into psychiatric wards alongside adult cases. The existing facilities for the treatment of mental disorders have developed in rather isolated and uncoordinated fashion throughout the country. The service structures are generally over centralized and overspecialized and are located in urban areas
A study made a grim discovery that one quarter of the adolescents sampled said they are frequently sad and lonely, feel empty emotionally, as well as overwhelmed by life’s problems. A few even admitted suicidal thoughts and leanings.
This year International Youth Day is set to raise awareness on this issue, as well as highlight the experiences of brave, young individuals who have chosen to speak out about these issues with the objective of overcoming stigma and discrimination to ensure that young people with mental health conditions can lead full and healthy lives free from isolation and unnecessary shame, and openly seek the services and support they need.
This is a call to leaders across the world to institute pragmatic measures to deal with discrimination and stigmatization which youths with mental health conditions encounter in their quest to access basic facilities in our communities.
Albert Einstein said “Everybody is genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”