The stigma of mental health in children and young people


Removing the stigma around mental health is essential to avoid excluding children and young people with any type of emotional discomfort or mental health problem. Promoting good mental health is one of the goals of Sustainable Development Goal 3: ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, which is celebrated this October 10, UNICEF Spain recalls that, although there has been progress in recent years in terms of understanding and acceptance of mental health, there are still negative beliefs that can make people not are interested in the help they need.

“Ending stigma and discrimination is the job of everyone, from governments to society, including organizations like UNICEF,” says UNICEF Spain Executive Director, Jose Maria Vera.

“And we can do this through simple measures such as listening to children and young people, supporting their families and carers to better understand their needs or ensuring that schools support mental health and are truly a protective environment for emotional well-being. This requires adequate investment in all affected sectors to prevent mental health problems, promote awareness of the problem and care for children with emotional distress.”

Globally, one in seven children and adolescents aged 10 to 19 (13% of the total) have a diagnosed mental health problem. Half of all mental disorders begin by age 14 and 75% of all mental disorders develop by age 24, but most cases go undiagnosed and therefore untreated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not contributed to the improvement of these data; In fact, in Spain, from March 2019 to March 2021, diagnoses related to mental disorders in pediatric emergencies increased by 10%, according to the Spanish Society of Pediatric Emergencies.

Also, a survey of 40,000 adolescents conducted by UNICEF in Spain and the University of Santiago to study the impact of technology on adolescence revealed that 15% of respondents had severe or moderately severe symptoms of depression and that the rate of suicidal ideation of 10.8%.

For all these reasons, UNICEF is advocating for investment, strengthening the role of education centers, supporting families and promoting the end of stigma and discrimination.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, actor Miguel Bernardo stars in a video framed by UNICEF’s new #EnMiMente campaign, which aims to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

In the video, children and adolescents are urged to talk about the problems they have without fear, so that they can get the attention and care they need and deserve. The audiovisual work can be shared on social networks using the hashtag #EnMiMente.

SOS Children’s Villages warns that the mental health of children and adolescents is particularly vulnerable in times of crisis such as the current one, in which the effects of the pandemic, together with the socio-economic difficulties experienced by 1.5 million households with sons and daughters in Spain affect their emotional state.

“In the last two years, mental disorders in children and adolescents have almost doubled; we are talking about self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression or aggression, among others, and suicidal behavior has increased in a truly alarming way. , the organization assures. “To this we must add that in Spain every third child and adolescent is at risk of poverty or social exclusion and faces obstacles that hinder their stability and negatively affect their mental health,” they add.

In households exposed to a constant situation of lack of resources and socio-economic difficulties, stressful situations are experienced frequently, sometimes chronic stress, which makes boys and girls particularly vulnerable to mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression or behavioral problems, among others . Additionally, these homes have fewer resources to access therapeutic care.

For SOS Children’s Villages, prevention, assessment and early attention are of key importance because they allow reducing the psychological effect of experienced difficulties and avoiding future problems. For all these reasons, the audio-visual project “Tips for improving the mental health of our children” was launched to support fathers, mothers and caregivers in the task of ensuring the emotional well-being of their sons and daughters.


Meanwhile, Save the Children says that “now that mental health is finally on the public agenda, it is time to take effective measures to care for it”, especially for children and adolescents with low resources who cannot afford private psychologist.

“Waiting lists to receive psychological or psychiatric help become a barrier as the disorder usually worsens or becomes chronic. It is unacceptable that access to mental health depends on income. The most vulnerable in childhood and adolescence must have quality public resources at their fingertips,” says Save the Children’s Children’s Policy Director, Catalina Perazzo.

The pandemic has brought new worries, fears and anxieties into the lives of children and adolescents and highlighted the scale of mental health problems suffered by children in Spain, as confirmed by data from Save the Children in its 2021 report Growing up healthy ( mind). An Analysis of Mental Health and Suicide in Childhood and Adolescence.”

Thus, mental disorders increased from 1.1% to 4% among boys, girls and adolescents between 4 and 14 years of age, and from 2.5% to 7% in the case of behavioral disorders, compared to the latest available official data from 2017 .Study.In addition, children and adolescents living in low-income households were 4 times more likely (12.8%) to suffer from mental and/or behavioral disorders than those living in high-income households (2 .6%).

“We want girls and boys to grow up healthy and strong, so we take care of their diet, make it easy for them to play sports, keep them warm when it’s cold and take them to the doctor when necessary. But do we also take care of their emotional and mental hello?” Perazzo asks.

For this reason, Save the Children, together with the College of Psychologists of Madrid, has developed a guide aimed at families, which helps them understand what happens to their sons and daughters when they suffer from mental health problems, and which includes practical resources to facilitate detection and adequate response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *