We recently talked about how mental health treatment can be extremely inaccessible for adolescents both here in the United States and across the pond in England. We also talked last week about World Mental Health Day and how it’s theme centered around young people’s mental health in the changing world. Even so, the Earth is large, and these are just glimpses at how much (but mostly how little) treatment adolescents receive worldwide, not just with mental health, but as a whole.
A large reason that adolescent health treatment is unavailable is because of the lack of money going into it, and as researchers found in the Creditor Reporting System, the funding for adolescent health as a whole is appalling. For making up 25% of the world’s population, not even 2% of global health funding goes towards adolescents aged 10 to 24. Of the 1.6% of global health funding for adolescents, about 70% went to HIV-AIDS related causes in sub-Saharan Africa, with the most of the rest going to other physical health issues, including tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. What’s remaining most likely barely touches the surface of mental health, much less on a global scale.
The failure to administer funding for adolescents for any sort of health treatment may come from the idea that they are healthy, after all, they’re young and bright and most of their bodies are fully functioning and agile…right? The assumption certainly holds true for people, though more are recently starting to realize that adolescent health – both physical and mental – are vital and predictive of health throughout the life course. This includes nutrition habits that develop during this time and how most mental disorders begin to take root during adolescence.
There have been some changes in how people are approaching treating adolescent health, though. The World Health Organization devoted some time in their 2018 monitoring report for Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health to the topic. In it, they mentioned how adolescents are not only the most vulnerable in humanitarian settings, but also the catalyst for change. They also made sure to address mental health, stating that self-harm is one of the leading causes of death in older adolescents. The report also mentions that 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental health disorders.
Through the rise in conversation and more people being open to talking about mental health, perhaps there might be a change in how accessible treatment can be for adolescents. For now, however, statistics remain grim.
Why do you think so little funding is provided for both adolescent mental and physical health? How do you think policymakers and funders can learn that adolescent health is needed?