Mental Health in Focus for Youth Day Celebrations

August 12, the International Youth Day will focus on reducing stigma related to mental illness

"Mental Health Matters" is the theme of International Youth Day (IYD) 2014. Although an estimated 1 in 5 young people experience one or more mental health conditions, many are afraid to speak out and seek the support they need, due to the stigma doing so can entail. Taking place on 12 August, the IYD event will bring together young people, youth organizations, Member States, civil society and UN entities to discuss the issue of youth and mental health. 

Excerpt from DESA News – feature articles – Volume 18, N°08 – August 2014

Through UN DESA’s work on developing a technical paper on ‘the social inclusion of youth with mental health conditions’ in 2013, it was struck by overwhelming silence surrounding the issue of young people with mental health conditions, as well as a dearth of information and data on the issue. 

With this in mind, UN DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) decided to shine a spotlight on this important issue, in an attempt to raise awareness and to reduce the stigma that so many young people are subject to. As such, UN DESA and its inter-agency Network on Youth Development partners decided to commemorate IYD 2014 under the theme Mental Health Matters. 

Since June, UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) has been drawing attention to this issue and discussing the importance of the social inclusion of young people with mental health conditions via its two-month online campaign in the lead up to International Youth Day. So far over 1,500 people have joined the campaign.

IYD Mental Health Matters Campaign

The campaign, running from 12 June until 12 August under the tagline #MentalHealthMatters, draws attention to the fact that youth with mental health conditions 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’. Efforts are needed to overcome this stigma to ensure that young people with mental health conditions can lead full and healthy lives free of isolation and unnecessary shame, and that they openly seek the services and support they need.

Throughout the campaign, young people have been asked to submit artwork, illustrations, photos and/or stories illustrating the positive impact that speaking out about mental health conditions can have on the lives of young people. So far over 170 individual submissions have been received, most in the form of illustrations and drawings.

Many of the submissions received will be showcased at the 12 August International Youth Day event at UN Headquarters. Online viewers can already take a sneak peek at selected submissions here on the IYD Pinterest accountD:

My friends, the sun is shining. But I only see the darkness
My friends, the time is going by. But my life is still empty
My friends, it's too hard to tell you

Excerpt from “Save Me Please” by Mazidatun Maftukhah, Poetry submission for the IYD 2014 Mental Health Matters Campaign