How can we halt the rise of depression and suicide among young people?
- Can we reduce the 1 million annual deaths from suicide?
- Why is half the world’s population not receiving effective mental health treatment?
- How do we ensure mental illness is taken as seriously as physical illness?
Poor mental health is one of the greatest contributors to disease worldwide. Globally the number of years lived in disability is three times higher for those with mental disability than those with physical disability - and 150 million people live with depression. A World Health Organisation study of 90 countries identified suicide as the fourth-biggest cause of death among young males and the third for young females – with around one million deaths each year in total. In September 2015 the UN included mental health in the Sustainable Development Agenda for the first time.
Within the One Young World community over three quarters of Ambassadors suffer from, or know someone who has suffered from, depression. Almost half of them have self-harmed, or know someone who has. Yet depression and mental illness remain largely hidden. The majority of our ambassadors live in countries where mental health is stigmatised and say they feel uncomfortable discussing these issues.
If depression cannot be talked about it cannot be detected and 70% of the One Young World Community say depression is not diagnosed early enough. Mental health, especially depression, is treatable through therapy or medication. Whilst the vast majority of Ambassadors believe counselling is the most important treatment, almost as many, report there is no access to counselling services in their country and half say there is no access to medicines either.
The World Health Organisation estimates almost a quarter of countries worldwide have passed mental health laws. Too many others give scant regard to the human rights of those with mental health issues. In some communities, mentally ill people are chained to trees or imprisoned without being accused of a crime. Abuses recorded by psychiatric institutions and hospitals include restraining patients with metal shackles, confining them to caged beds, and depriving them of clothing, bedding, clean water or proper toilet facilities. The stigma of mental illness also leaves many people socially isolated, discriminated against in education, employment and housing, prohibited from voting, marrying or having children.
Global firms could help to destigmatise mental health in the countries in which they do business. Whilst One Young World Ambassadors find companies are supportive of employees with disabilities, less than half feel that support is extended to those with mental health issues.
Business can help start the conversation; governments can provide preventative measures and society as a whole needs to have a more open debate about mental health.