The State of the World’s Children: The Introduction

  1. A time for Action

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the world has witnessed a significant increase in mental health issues in children and their families. The pandemic highlighted how events throughout the world can affect the world inside our heads. However, it also offered an opportunity to build back better. According to the report, the international community has been provided with a historic chance to commit, communicate, and take action to promote, protect and care for the mental health of a generation.


  1. The Ignored Challenge

Mental health issues are still considered by many international governmental leaders as minor challenges. In light of this, governments have been systematically underfunding mental health and unwilling to invest more in the issue. Indeed, studies show that national economies benefit from positive mental health amongst their population. To pursue prosperity and equal opportunities, it is important to recognize the connection between mental and physical health and well-being, and the importance of mental health in shaping life outcomes. The latter was acknowledged in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The neglectful approach towards this matter is highly costly to the economies of the international community. Indeed, the world pays approximately US$387.2 billion a year, according to calculations for this report by David McDaid and Sara Evans-Lacko of the Department of Health Policy of the London School of Economies and Political Science. In other words, national economies lose a whopping amount of US$387.2 billion in uncontributed human potential.

  1. Interview of the Person of Concern

It is important to listen to the experiences, concerns, and ideas of children and adolescents when it comes to mental health. UNICEF teamed up with researchers from the Global Early Adolescent Study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU) to host focus group discussions on mental health and well-being. Support for the project came from the Wellcome Trust. From February to June 2021, local partners facilitated focus group discussions for adolescents aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 19 in Belgium, Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. The discussions followed a guide developed by UNICEF, JHU, and local partners. From these discussions, qualitative data were coded using an inductive thematic analysis approach and refined throughout the data analysis process.


  1. Unheard Calls

Worldwide, surveys highlight that four out of five people worldwide believe that no one should have to deal with mental health challenges on their own. Instead, a median of 83% of young people (15- to 24-year-olds) agreed that the best solution is to share experiences and seek support. According to a survey conducted by UNICEF and Gallup in 21 countries in the first half of 2021, a median of one in five young people (19%) reported often feeling depressed or having little interest in engaging in activities.


  1. A time for Leadership

At the heart of our societies’ failure to respond to the mental health needs of children, adolescents and caregivers is an absence of leadership and commitment. We need commitment, especially financial commitment, from global and national leaders and from a broad range of stakeholders that reflects the important role of social and other determinants in helping to shape mental health outcomes.

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