Young people and mental health in a changing world – World Mental Health Day 2018

Malin Bring

World Mental Health Day takes place on 10 October every year to raise global awareness of mental health issues and to stimulate advocacy. This year, the theme of World Mental Health Day is “Young people and mental health in a changing world” – a vital concern given that approximately 1 in 5 adolescents experience mental and behavioural problems in any given year. Moreover, half of all mental health problems in adulthood have their onset during or before adolescence.

Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course at WHO/Europe, states, “It is important to protect the younger generations as they are the future leaders. We need youth at every table. We need their voices to shape their future in the right way, using their creativity and energy to make change.”

With the recent release of 2 WHO/Europe reports, “Situation of child and adolescent health in Europe” and “Adolescent alcohol-related behaviours: trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002–2014”, the health and well-being of young people is high on the regional agenda.

Dr Mikkelsen notes that “the area of mental health is still misunderstood, but now there is momentum and the highest possible recognition of mental health”.

At the third United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), held in September 2018 in New York, United States of America, mental ill health was endorsed as the “fifth NCD” alongside cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases.

The formal integration of mental health into the NCD agenda – as well as the integration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2016 – provides the opportunity to plan and coordinate joint efforts to highlight the already close links between mental disorders and other NCDs. This includes issues of comorbidity in the context of chronic disease management in general health care.