Supporting youth with mental health conditions

Published: 12 Aug 2014

UN International Youth Day 2014: Mental Health Matters

Today is International Youth Day, a day to recognise the valuable contribution young people make in society, as well as to raise awareness of the issues they face.

Under this year’s theme of ‘Mental Health Matters’, the UN and youth organisations globally are highlighting the stigma attached to mental health conditions, and the discrimination faced by young people who experience them. *Despite 20% of the world’s youth population experiencing mental health issues, young people still report a reluctance to come forward and seek help; many of them often feel isolated or excluded because of this.

Engaging young people

In 2013, the UN’s Department of Economics and Social Affairs produced a report on the challenges faced by young people with mental health conditions. It offers recommendations on addressing the stigma around mental health, and argues for more opportunities for young people to engage with others through development programmes and social inclusion activities.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, a non-formal education framework, is one activity that can play a role in addressing the challenges and stigma around mental health on a global scale. “The Award is open to all 14-24-year-olds, regardless of their background or circumstance, and every year on International Youth Day we seek to reaffirm our commitment to supporting the development of young people, particularly those who may be marginalised or considered at risk,” says Secretary General of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation, John May.

“Through the Award we provide young people with the opportunity to develop skills in areas such as confidence, managing feelings and relationships. These practical and social skills can build a young person’s sense of self-worth, and make them more resilient when faced with challenges, whatever they may be.”

The Award’s impact

As well as trying to measure the short term outcomes which young people experience when they take part in the Award, we focus on the longer term impact the Award can have on their lives and communities. Our impact framework identifies nine impacts including ‘improved health and well-being’ that focuses on helping to increase young people’s physical fitness and their own sense of emotional and mental well-being.

The Award can empower socially excluded young people, re-connecting them with their communities and enabling them to meet people from different backgrounds. Opening a dialogue between diverse groups of young people makes them more aware and accepting of one another and themselves. We have many stories that highlight the effects mental health issues can have on young people and how the Award helps to support them when coping with these conditions.

A life saved

Julius Irungu Krush, a Gold Award holder and volunteer from Kenya, says the Award helped save his life. “The Award came into my life when I had almost lost all hope...I had low self-esteem and regarded myself as unfortunate, desperate, hopeless and unworthy. I thought that I would never be able to make it in life an attempted to commit suicide...By the time I completed my Award, I had reaped a lot of benefits and had achieved so much. Honestly, my life changed – I was able to deal with my issues.”

Improved health and well-being is just one of the ways we measure the Award’s impact. We also assess how it improves social inclusion, increases participation in civic life and how it contributes to the reduction and prevention of violence, conflict resolution and peace-building. Read more about the Award’s impact here.

Support our work

You can help us to reach even more young people like Julius by supporting our work. Find out how you can support the Award or help us to deliver it. If you are aged between 14 and 24, you can also take part in the Award. Find the Award Near You.

*There are 1.2 billion young people aged between 15-24 in the world. Source UNICF 2012