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7 ways young people are making a difference in mental health

From AI to climate anxiety, youth are speaking up about mental health.

Photo by NONRESIDENT on Unsplash

The field of mental health has a lot to gain from young people as we think about the Great Reset, and how to build a better, kinder and fairer world.

In keeping with the theme for World Mental Health Day on 10 October – ‘Move for Mental Health – Time to Invest’ –young people around the world are making investments to strengthen mental health systems and services, and to curb the stigma against mental illness. Here are seven of them.

1. Lived experiences: Advocates and activists that have lived experience of mental illness or of caring for people living with mental illness are talking about their mental health journey and best practices. Carers of people living with mental ill health are advising health systems on areas of improvement. The perspectives of service end users are important as they guide treatment outcomes that are sustainable. Measuring health outcomes has been a challenge for the field of mental health; today’s youth are vocal about their lived experience, and this is driving a dialogue around key ingredients for mental health and wellness.

2. Workplace mental health: The open and sharing nature of young people has continued in work spaces. Young people are not afraid to share their lived experiences with mental illness with their colleagues, while many are openly creating a space and changing the landscape of workplace mental health. Youth today do not feel the need to keep up appearances and wish to have a linear work­–life balance. As organizations grow, and hire more young employees, there are several guides and policies that can help companies sustain their employees’ wellbeing.

3. Climate anxiety and its effect on wellbeing: Climate change is causing a widespread panic; a majority of young people are concerned about the erratic weather patterns and feel helpless about it. Young people are dealing with eco-anxiety caused by the disruptive environmental risks, but most healthcare providers around the world are not equipped to deal with mental health issues as a result of climate change. Around half of the world’s population today is aged 30 or under, and although decades of advocating for climate change has mostly fallen on deaf years, young people have been at the forefront on climate action. As a result, they have found a seat at most tables to discuss solutions and the direct effects that environmental issues will have on their generation.4. Implementation research: Young people are innovating functional mental health services built around integrated implementation and tailored to their culture and experiences. They are cognizant of the scientific field, government health systems and promoting mental healthcare solutions, and are defying traditional approaches to service delivery. World leaders need to give young people the opportunity to scale up and bring about mass change. As Waves for Change co-founder Apish Tshetsha puts it: “Our youth are powerful. We know the solutions to the problems we face. We just need the training and support to face and overcome them.”

5. Showing leadership in mental health: Victor Ugo, senior campaign officer at United for Global Mental Health and founder of Africa’s largest youth-led mental health organization, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, led the successful advocacy for the ban of a pesticide in Nigeria that is one of the leading contributing factors to suicide in the country. Young people have practical solutions to the current mental health crisis as, was echoed at the youth mental health panel in Davos earlier this year. Elisha London, a Young Global Leader, was campaign director for the Heads Together campaign, spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, while Prince Harry is now founder and CEO of United for Global Mental Health. The goal of thee organizations is to promote the importance of mental health wellbeing and they are the driving forces behind campaigns such as The Speak Your Mind campaign, a nationally driven globally united campaign now in 19 countries, and #MoveforMentalHealth, a campaign supported by WHO, The World Federation of Mental Health, Global Shapers and Young Global Leaders, for World Mental Health Day.

6. AI and digital mental health: Young people are innovating mental health services and bridging mental health treatment gaps through the use of digital applications. Orygen and the World Economic Forum collaborated on a global youth consultation to design an advocacy toolkit for encouraging support for youth mental health. The toolkit consultations brought attention to the fact that young people do appreciate digital health services, especially during current times, but do not want to forego in-person support. Various AI platforms are being developed by young people to promote mental wellbeing, such as Inuka, a digital coaching solution that helps care for the wellbeing of an organization’s employees

7. Social media: Today, nearly 4 billion people use social media in their daily or working lives. Celebrities and influencers use social media to promote their brand and work, often at a psychological cost to their followers. Some research has found that 63% of social media users face psychological distress, including depression and anxiety issues. As social media has become a digital channel to learn and engage from others, young people are leveraging these platforms to call out the very tool that amplifies their voice. Millennials, who were the first users of social media, are now speaking out about the damaging effects social media can have on mental health. The very celebrities and influencers that were promoting their lifestyle are using their platforms to share their own experiences with mental health.

Young people have the potential to drive solutions that are sustainable and applicable for mental health investment. World leaders need to invest in mental health – and the key stakeholders to drive those investments are youth. By calling on a uniform dialogue for mental health illness, they can offer insights on the need for affordable, accessible services in primary health care.

Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.


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