Mental health in focus for youth day celebrations

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.

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 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.

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

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 account: http://bit.ly/1rem07f

International Youth Day Event

Taking place in the ECOSOC Chamber from 10 am to 1 pm on 12 August, the IYD event is being co-organized by UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. It will bring together young people, youth organizations, Member State representatives, civil society, and UN entities to discuss the issue of youth and mental-health in particular looking at issues such as the impact of stigma, discrimination and exclusion, on the local, country, and international levels.

Following opening remarks by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level representatives, performances by young artists will be held in an effort to explore a variety of interactive and informative ways to draw awareness to the issue. In addition, panelists, including Jordan Burnham and Alicia Raimundo, will talk about their own experiences with mental health conditions and the impact that speaking out and seeking support has had on their lives.

The event will officially launch the UN DESA publication Mental Health Matters: the Social Inclusion of youth with mental health conditions. For those interested to attend, but who do not hold a UN grounds pass,  please RSVP here.

Worldwide celebrations

Running until August 12, the UN DESA #MentalHealthMatters campaign, is encouraging young people to organize events to celebrate International Youth Day. The IYD toolkit gives some ideas on what to do to commemorate the Day. Young people and UN entities are also encouraged to tell UN DESA about their events, so it can be mapped on the IYD Map of Events.

Read more about the event here or send any inquiries to youth@un.org.

Image credit: “Gathering Colours” submitted by Sonali Sukesh for the #MentalHealthMatters campaign

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