UNICEF Ireland calls for the voices of young people to be heard ahead of crucial opening up decisions
Call follows powerful address from Irish youth activist at EU launch of UNICEF report exposing breadth and depth of adolescent mental health issues in Europe
Youth Advocate and UNICEF spokespeople available for interview
Download the report here
DUBLIN, 16 October 2021 – Following the launch of a UNICEF report highlighting the worsening mental health situation for Europe’s children and young people, UNICEF Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to listen to the voices of young people as they make crucial decisions around removing COVID-19 restrictions.
As COVID-19 continues to play havoc in the lives of children and young people, the report, launched on Friday, October 15th, found that Ireland ranks 3rd highest in Europe for the estimated percentage of mental disorders among adolescents aged 10–19. The combined percentage for girls and boys is 19.4%, with an estimated 19.9% of girls and 18.9% of boys in Ireland living with a mental health disorder. Meanwhile, across Europe 19 per cent European boys aged 15 to 19 suffer from mental health disorders, followed by more than 16 per cent of girls the same age. Nine million adolescents in Europe (aged 10 to 19) are living with mental health disorders, with anxiety and depression accounting for more than half of cases.
Irish youth advocate Erika Gallagher (17) addressed EU Commissioners, HRH Queen Mathilde, Queen of the Belgians, and Irish MEP Maria Walsh at the launch of a European analysis of UNICEF’s flagship publication “The State of the World’s Children Report: On My Mind” and called for greater investment in mental health services, as well as supportive programmes in schools. “We are confined, isolated, separated from our friends. All the best bits about school have been taken away from us, the fun, the closeness. The corridors are quiet, the lunchrooms have turned into socially distant classrooms, while we are forced to eat outside in the cold. The loss is so great for me and my peers. The last time I sat with my friends at school was nearly two years ago. Policymakers and adults have an opportunity to do something about it now. Invest in us now, before it is too late. Let us not be the lost generation to COVID-19,” she said.
Highlighting the pandemic’s impact on children and young people, UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power said all governments in Europe need to ensure they invest in promoting positive mental health and providing access to support for our all children. “This report provides disturbing data on the stresses young people are under. The pandemic is a mental health emergency for children and young people. Restrictions have put children in situations that we know can create mental health challenges, such as isolation, family tensions and loss of income. As we look at opening up our society we need to ensure that children’s voices are heard and that the services and systems are in place to provide every child access to a mental well-being and a happy childhood.”
Next to investments in quality childcare, parenting, and family-friendly measures across all sectors, UNICEF identifies 5 key priority interventions for European institutions and national governments:
- support interventions to facilitate vulnerable groups’ access to mental healthcare services and improve regional infrastructures.
- include access to mental health services in national action plans including the opportunities offered by digital and online technologies to reduce gaps in access to mental health support.
- provide programs at school to build awareness and emotional coping skills for adolescents; integrate mental health counselling services; training for teachers and staff; creating safe spaces for children to discuss and share. Complement with positive parenting programs that prevent domestic violence. The EU should support the ‘safe to learn’ initiative to end violence in and through schools so children are free to learn, thrive and pursue their dreams
- invest adequate resources to train health and social workers on mental health to support services for children on the move.
- incorporate targeted actions on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in official development assistance dedicated to human development as well as into humanitarian programs for preparedness, response, and recovery to meet the needs of all populations affected by emergencies, including child protection during humanitarian crisis.
*List of Countries Included in this calculation: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Figure refers to purchasing power parity dollars
Notes to Editors
Estimates on causes of death among adolescents are based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 Global Health Estimates. Estimates on prevalence of diagnosed mental disorders are based on the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) 2019 Global Burden of Disease Study.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.ie
For more information, please contact:
Danny Smits, UNICEF Ireland, + 353 87 1308070, firstname.lastname@example.org