International Youth Day – 12 August 2014

International Youth Day – 12 August 2014


2014 International Youth Day: Youth and Mental Health

On 17 December 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.

The theme of International Youth Day 2014 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 ‘labelled’.

The 2014 observance of International Youth Day will raise awareness on this important topic, 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.



Every year International Youth Day provides us with an opportunity to draw attention to global issues around the lives and wellbeing of youth and their role, energy and enormous potential for human, social and economic development and to reaffirm the importance of engaging young people as leaders and partners.

The 2014 International Youth Day theme is “Youth and Mental Health” highlighting that ‘Mental Health Matters’. Worldwide, up to 20% of youth are affected by mental health conditions, making them vulnerable to social stigma and discrimination. But for youth and adolescents who live in conflict zones and refugee camps, this figure is estimated to be much higher.

Young people living in emergency or conflict-affected areas suffer disproportionately from mental health conditions, and exposure to war and conflict remains one of the greatest risk factors for the development of mental-health conditions among adolescents. The incidence of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among children and adolescents who have been affected from conflict has been estimated as anywhere between 25% to 75% of the affected population.*

Globally, youth make up the majority of the more than 1.5 billion people who live in countries affected by fragility, violence, or conflict.** Many of these youth are denied access to basic education, further limiting opportunities for schooling and employment in the future. As ‘poor educational systems’ have been identified as a risk-factor for the development of mental health conditions for young people***, issues of education and quality schooling for adolescents and youth should be a high priority.

Given these challenges and the prevalence of violence and humanitarian crisis, it is crucial that awareness and support are raised around mental-health issues for young people – which will play a key role in the rebuilding and formation of peaceful societies.  A 2013 UN publication on ‘Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions’ calls for a ‘global conversation’ on strategies to address the challenges posed to young people by mental health conditions, with the goal of improving well-being and fostering both social and economic integration. This includes tackling stigma and also promoting social inclusion and decision-making for young people worldwide, in order to ensure that the rights, needs and aspirations of adolescents and youth affected by mental health conditions are recognized.

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