On my mind: how adolescents experience and perceive mental health around the world
UNICEF and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Adolescence (age 10-19) is a time of exceptionally rapid growth marked not only by physical transformation into an adult body, but also by equally rapid brain development. In addition to physical and cognitive changes, social changes occur that stem from greater exposure to people, social contexts and ideas.
Given these concurrent development changes, it is not surprising that adolescence is a particularly sensitive period for the emergence of mental health conditions. Indeed, it is estimated that more than 13 per cent of adolescents globally live with a mental disorder, and many more experience significant psychosocial distress that does not rise to the level of a diagnosable disorder. The most widespread of these mental health conditions include symptoms of anxiety and depression, with rates increasing dramatically throughout adolescence, particularly among girls. Other prevalent challenges include drug and alcohol abuse, conduct disorders, eating disorders and suicidal behaviours. Taken together, approximately 74 per cent of lifetime mental health conditions manifest by age 24.
To better understand mental health issues and concerns from the voices of adolescents, 71 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted by 14 partner organizations in 13 countries: Belgium (francophone and Flemish), Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America. The countries were selected to ensure geographic, economic and cultural diversity. This report summarizes the results of these FGDs with qualitative research coordinated, analysed and drafted by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) in collaboration with global partners and as part of UNICEF’s flagship report, The State of the World’s Children 2021: On My Mind – Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.