Today, as Orygen acknowledges World Mental Health Day, we encourage everyone to pause and consider this year's theme from the World Federation of Mental Health: mental health in an unequal world.
Reflecting on this, Craig Hodges, director of Orygen Global, and Emily Unity, a youth peer worker at Orygen, have shared their thoughts on equity in youth mental health. Read Emily's reflection Check your mental health privilege.
Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality
Optimal mental health of young people is vital for sustainable development in all countries. Yet youth mental ill-health remains a major concern worldwide.
Mental ill-health has profound adverse effects on young people’s development and their capacity to participate and contribute economically and socially. Mental ill-health is one of the major health problems for young people globally and 75 per cent of mental disorders have their onset before the age of 25.
Despite the need, supports for good mental health and service responses to mental ill-health are limited and poorly co-ordinated in most countries, even in high-income settings. Improving the mental health and wellbeing of young people requires a systematic approach, centred on cross-sectoral support for mental health and early intervention when problems develop. It is important both to prevent and address the symptomatic, developmental and functional impacts of mental ill-health in the stage of life between adolescence and early adulthood.
Mental illness is predicted to cause the greatest economic burden of all health conditions by 2030. The Lancet Commission for Global Mental Health estimates that between 2011 and 2030, mental ill-health will cost US $16 trillion in lost economic output worldwide. With adequate government spending on mental health treatment there’d be significant benefits for individuals and society. According to the Speak Your Mind Return on the Individual report:
- There would be 60 million fewer cases of anxiety, depression and epilepsy between now and 2030 if we increase spending on mental health to recommended levels.
- People would gain 25 million healthy life years between now and 2030.
- 200,000 deaths from the conditions of depression, psychosis and epilepsy could be avoided.
The global pandemic has exacerbated the already huge gulf between high resource countries and their capacity to invest in appropriate mental health supports for young people, compared to young people from low and middle resource countries. If we consider that 90 per cent of the world’s young people aged 10-25 live in low and middle resource settings, now more than any other time in our history we must act to bridge this inequality.
But the tide is turning and there’s mounting pressure on government leaders in making quality mental health care accessible for all.
For more than 30 years, Orygen has used its voice to advocate for greater investment in mental health in Australia. Today, Orygen Global use this same voice to partner with community-based organisations and young people and advocate for improved investments in mental health globally.
Orygen Global support these goals by focusing on:
- setting up mental health service models of care in countries around the world;
- early intervention and preventive mechanisms based on evidence and research;
- using our financial privilege, expertise and partnerships to support the development of programs and supports in low and middle resource settings where youth mental health care is paltry at best and still taboo at worst; and
- using our voice to advocate for improved investments in mental health globally.
Orygen Global partner with communities in their own cultural contexts to devise customised approaches to the global youth mental health framework. Our work draws upon research in mental health science and contributes to the global body of knowledge that explains what works for whom and in what contexts.
Increased access to care comes from breaking stigma, educating communities in mental health literacy, providing accessible services, and integrating them with health and local community services.
In global youth mental health, strength and change will come from unified and coordinated efforts. Critically, global efforts to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people must be in collaboration with young people, regardless of their identity, cultural background or circumstances, who are experts in ‘what works’ for them and their peers.
Reflections from Orygen global fellows
At Orygen, we believe that global efforts to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people must be in collaboration with young people, regardless of their identity, cultural background or circumstances. They’re the experts in what works for them and their peers.
Listen to the perspectives from some of our Orygen Global fellows from around the world, as they share with us their experiences and observations on the positive change in mental health awareness in their respective communities.
Check your mental health privilege
 Kessler RC, Angermeyer M, Anthony JC, et al. Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of Mental Disorders in the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry, 2007; 6(3): 168–176.