Youth and Mental Health

Youth is a period of dramatic change, and the journey from childhood to adulthood can be complex, raising a host of mental health issues.

The theme of this International Youth Day is “Youth and Mental Health,” under the motto Mental Health Matters.

  The mental health of young women and men is important for the health of society as a whole.     

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General
International Youth Day 2014

This is an opportunity to raise awareness about the difficulties facing young women and men, including from stigma and discrimination, and to support them so that they can fully achieve their aspirations.

Guided by an Operational Strategy on Youth (2014-2021), UNESCO focusses on the needs of marginalized young women and men to promote their full integration into society. We work to support school health programmes, as well as informal and non-formal learning, and by mobilizing the power of information and communication technologies. At the wider level, we are committed to promoting inclusive integrated policies on youth, in which all youth voices are meaningfully consulted and engaged. In all this, we seek to provide opportunities for young people to develop the skills and competences necessary to transition to adulthood and to make the most of all opportunities offered by societies that are increasingly diverse and undergoing transformation.

This requires seeing young women and men not as objects of policy but as agents of change. It calls for action to promote intergenerational understanding and partnership, to strengthen solidarity and to ensure the full integration of all young women and men in society and the economy. In crafting new policies, we need to draw upon lessons learnt and listen to the needs of young people so as to help them overcome the challenges they face.

The mental health of young women and men is important for the health of society as a whole. They are a wellspring of ideas for innovation and leaders for positive change. We need to support them in every way in order to build with them inclusive, just -- and healthy -- societies.

What do we mean by "youth"?

When carrying out its Youth Strategy, UNESCO uses different definitions of youth depending on the context.

For activities at the international or regional level, UNESCO uses the United Nations’ universal definition which defines “youth” as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This is to ensure statistical consistency across regions.

For activities at the national level, for example when implementing a local community youth programme, “youth” may be understood in a more flexible manner. UNESCO will then adopt the definition of “youth” as used by a particular Member State.

World Atlas of Youth Policies

Zoom in on the map to look at youth policies worldwide

This mapping of Youth Policies has been undertaken by the International Institute for Educational Planning in collaboration with the UNESCO Youth-led Social Innovation Team.


Mental Health Matters

Get involved! Until 12 August 2014, the United Nations is running the Mental Health Matters Campaign.

Its aim is to raise greater awareness to youth mental health issues, and to combat discrimination and stigma that can affect those with mental health conditions.

Young women and men are invited to submit short stories, poems, photos, videos and artwork, and those selected will be included in the UN publication ‘Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health Conditions’.

YOU can get involved …

Join the celebration

  • Raise awareness via social media. You can be a campaigner: use #MentalHealthMatters and #UN4Youth, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

  • Send your work to the Mental Health Matters Campaign Use your artistic talents to raise awareness.

  • Call on your school, college, organization or community to create and improve services and programmes tailored for youth with mental health conditions.

  • Organize a Google+ Hangout or online chat to discuss for instance stigma and discrimination that youth with mental health conditions often experience.

  • Create an “info point” about youth with mental health conditions in your town/village, at your high school, youth club or university.

  • Write to your minister of Youth to inform him/her about the challenges young people with or without mental health conditions face in their daily lives and to suggest solutions.

  • Ask your school, university or community centre if they are willing to hold a discussion about Mental Health issues for International Youth Day.