The UN Children’s Fund says children are most likely to be hurt by months of COVID-related restrictions, school closures and separation from family and friends.
The latest estimates show that more than one in seven adolescents aged 10 to 19 suffer from mental health disorders globally, while approximately 46,000 adolescents commit suicide each year.
UNICEF spokesman James Elder told VOA that most of these situations are not being addressed because of the stigma associated with mental illness and the lack of government investment. He said that globally only two percent of the government health budget is allocated for mental health spending.
“Twenty percent … youth are saying they feel depressed and have little interest in things,” he said. “This is again a clear indication of the impact of COVID. … There is a whole range of mental disorders – anxiety and depression and bipolar – that young people are suffering from.”
UNICEF reports that more than 1.6 billion children have suffered some loss of education due to the pandemic lockdown. Elder said that children’s mental health often deteriorates when there are disruptions in their daily routines, such as not attending school, not engaging in recreational activities and socializing with friends. These problems, he said, affect children around the world, in rich and poor countries alike.
“Of course, if you’re from a country where you don’t have connectivity, you don’t have a laptop or one of your parents is on $200 a month, of course, those stress, that worry, risk slipping. Too much of a mental health disorder,” he said. “And in some of the world’s poorest countries, governments are spending less than a dollar per person treating mental health conditions.”
The cost of ignoring mental disorders is huge, UNICEF warned. It cited a new analysis from the London School of Economics, which indicates that mental disorders among young people result in a loss of about $390 billion in human capital each year.