Commonwealth Youth Urgently Call for Action on Mental Health

by Ella

World Mental Health Day, observed annually on October 10, serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of mental health. This year’s theme, ‘Mental Health is a Universal Human Right,’ underscores the fundamental significance of promoting and safeguarding mental well-being as an essential human right.


In September 2023, global leaders renewed their commitment to universal health coverage, affirming that every individual has the right to the highest attainable standard of both physical and mental health.


As Commonwealth youth leaders dedicated to addressing the pressing mental health challenges in our respective nations, we commend the increasing attention being accorded to mental health. It is emerging as a pivotal cross-cutting theme in the context of strengthening healthcare systems and fortifying resilience during health crises.


The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day also recognizes the escalating global burden of mental health issues and highlights the vulnerability of youth. It emphasizes the imperative to empower young people to address their physical and mental health needs while urging policymakers to ensure they are not left behind.


Indeed, these renewed commitments present an opportunity for us to intensify our efforts.

The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with ongoing economic crises, has led to a significant surge in mental health conditions among young people. Since 2020, there has been a 25 percent increase in cases of anxiety and depression among youths.

Empowering Youth Voices on Mental Health

Within the Commonwealth, young people have been actively advocating for the attention of decision-makers on the crucial issue of mental health. During the 2022 Commonwealth Youth Forum, youth representatives engaged in dialogues with the aim of addressing mental health. They advocated for the inclusion of mental health services at all levels of healthcare delivery through various advocacy initiatives.

Proposals put forth during these discussions include the prioritization of coping strategies for mental health challenges in school curricula. Additionally, young advocates championed the launch of the Dhaka-Kigali Mental Health Compact, which encompasses targeted approaches to address mental health issues among children, adolescents, and youth.

To further elevate the mental health agenda and leverage commitments from the 2023 Health Ministers Meeting, young leaders organized an intergenerational dialogue. This dialogue aimed to foster enhanced collaboration between young advocates and mental health policymakers, culminating in recommendations for national and regional interventions to enhance mental health provision within the Commonwealth.

What We Call Upon Leaders to Accelerate

We, as the Commonwealth Youth Health Network (CYHN) caucus in East Central and Southern Africa (ECSA), in collaboration with our counterparts worldwide, wholeheartedly welcome the UN high-level meeting on universal health coverage (UHC) and the substantial efforts made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government and Ministers to address the mounting burden of mental health among young people.

We respectfully call upon all stakeholders to translate their commitments into concrete actions aimed at tackling the challenges posed by mental health among the youth. To this end, we propose practical approaches to accelerate the efforts of Commonwealth countries:

1. Conduct a comprehensive assessment of strategies and policies aimed at addressing the mental health burden among young people and allocate increased national budgets to bolster mental health services.

2. Integrate existing youth-friendly services, leveraging social media platforms such as TikTok or Twitter, and advocate for the reduction of stigma and discrimination against young individuals affected by mental health conditions at the community level.

3. Collaborate with established youth-led organizations and support initiatives dedicated to addressing the mental health crisis. This includes partnering with organizations actively engaged in prevention, care, and treatment for mental health patients.

4. Shield young people from the social determinants of mental health by providing opportunities for skill development, self-employment, and gainful employment.

We are delighted to collaborate with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the East, Central, and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) to transition from commitments to tangible implementation.

We firmly believe that, through the implementation of the commitments made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government, coupled with our proposed strategies, it is entirely feasible to confront the significant burden of mental health conditions among young people.

On this World Mental Health Day, we fervently hope that all stakeholders will act with urgency to avert the impending catastrophe and prioritize the mental well-being of our youth.


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