In New York today at an event to observe International Youth Day, the Secretary-General drew attention to a new UN publication disclosing that 20 percent of the world’s young people experience a mental health condition each year. The publication, Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions, underlines that the risks are especially great as young people transition from childhood to adulthood. Panellists at the event, which was jointly organised by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, included H.E. Ambassador Otto, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau, ‘mental health superhero’ Alicia Raimundo, youth advocate Jordan Burnham, the author of the publication Dr. Catherine Bradshaw, as well as Assistant Secretary-General of DESA Thomas Gass, and the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi.

As the 400+ attendees were taking their seats, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of DESA Daniela Bas welcomed participants, which was followed by a screening of video clips and artwork submitted through the #MentalHealthMatters campaign. After initial words of welcome by ASG Gass, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered his formal remarks about youth and the stigma surrounding mental health issues:

“Stigma and shame often compound the problem, preventing

[young people] from seeking the support they need. For this year’s observance of International Youth Day, the United Nations wants to help lift the veil that keeps young people locked in a chamber of isolation and silence. The barriers can be overwhelming, particularly in countries where the issue of mental health is ignored and there is a lack of investment in mental health services,” said the Secretary-General.

In very personal remarks, H.E. Ambassador Otto, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Palau, mentioned that “three percent of all of our deaths in Palau are due to suicide.”

‘Mental health superhero’ Alicia Raimundo stressed that “the best way you can comfort someone with a mental health condition is to ask them how you can help.”

Also youth advocate Jordan Burnham highlighted that “the solution is conversation. Mental health needs to be talked about regularly: peer to peer.”

ASG Gass formally launched the publication ‘Mental Health Matters: Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions,’ whose author Dr. Catherine Bradshaw offered a brief overview of her research and a summary of her findings, outlining how youth are affected by discrimination based on their conditions.

“Approximately 50 percent of youth will meet the criteria of developing a mental health condition,” Dr. Bradshaw said.

United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi focused on continued efforts to raise awareness and decrease stigma and discrimination of youth and mental health conditions by stressing that “young people with mental health conditions are fighting for acceptance.”

The event concluded with a questions and answers session, which included questions submitted via Twitter as well as comments from members of the audience.

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