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Advocating for Young People’s Mental Health: Personal Stories to Global Initiatives

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 in 6 young people globally experience mental health challenges, with depression being a leading cause of disability among adolescents. Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29. In light of these distressing figures, it becomes crucial to acknowledge the importance of mental health and well-being as integral components of a healthy and fulfilling life. We cannot overlook the impact of social and environmental factors on young people’s mental health, including societal pressures, economic challenges, and the increasing complexities of modern life.

Being Initiative is an international mental health initiative which works towards a world where young people feel well and thrive on mental health by focusing on mental promotion and prevention.

Being Initiative hosted a panel session about young mothers’ mental health needs at the Women Deliver 2023 conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Aline Cossy-Gantner the Chief Development Officer of Fondation Botnar highlighted the importance of taking a holistic approach to mental health support so as to lead to better outcomes.

“The historical medicalization of mental health has overlooked social factors in support systems,“ she emphasised.

Presently, Being Initiative is working to help improve the mental wellbeing of young people aged 10 to 24 in thirteen priority countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Vietnam. 

Girls’ Globe Advisor Felogene Anumo spoke with Nicole Bardikoff of Grand Challenges Canada about the Being Initiative and ending mental health stigma.

Personal experiences shared by the panellists also highlighted solutions and guidance for supporting the mental well-being of pregnant teenagers and young mothers.

Esther Mamba, a dedicated advocate from the Children and Adolescents Are My Priority (CHAMP) Programme at Mothers2Mothers in South Africa, stresses the significance of investing in women. She highlights that supporting young mothers not only benefits them individually but also has a profound impact on their communities.

“Investing in women is investing in communities,” Mamba asserts. 

Hauwa Ojeifo, a mental health activist focused on young women in Nigeria and founder of She Writes Woman, discussed the recent progress in mental health legislation in her country. While the passing of the Mental Health Act of Nigeria was received with a lot of excitement, she cautiously expresses optimism about the new law but acknowledges the challenges of implementation due to infrastructure deficits.

“Nigeria has a new law on mental health, and while I am cautiously optimistic, we have seen it time and time again where laws are passed, but it takes decades to implement due to infrastructure deficits,” Ojeifo shares.

Girls’ Globe Advisor Felogene Anumo spoke with Hauwa Ojeifo about her advocacy journey for mental health in Nigeria.

Through this engaging dialogue on nurturing mental health among young people, it became evident that mental well-being is a fundamental component of a fulfilling and healthy life. 

The panellists’ insights, coupled with personal stories and expert analysis, provided a comprehensive understanding of the importance of self-care, collective care, and policy changes that prioritises mental health and well-being of young mothers. 

Two participants in the Being Initiative event discuss young mothers’ mental health in the Girls’ Globe Solidarity Studio.

Similarly, during Girls’ Globe’s takeover of the Rising Minds Radio Show focusing on mental health, guest speaker Marylize Biubwa, an intersectional feminist and activist who identifies as a black non-binary lesbian, shed light on the transformative potential of collective care in creating supportive environments for young people’s mental health.

Marylize urges, “Ask us what we need.” This simple but profound statement encourages policymakers and the society to actively engage young people in conversations about their mental health, providing them with a platform to voice their concerns, preferences, and needs. By actively listening to young people’s experiences, we can empower them to navigate their mental health journeys with resilience and confidence. 

Prioritising the mental health and well-being of young people is crucial and urgent. 

We must strive for a society that supports the holistic development of young people, empowering them to thrive in every aspect of their lives. Let us continue to challenge stigmas, raise awareness, and provide the necessary resources and support for young people to lead lives filled with resilience, purpose, and well-being. Together, we can nurture the mental health of young people and co-create a future where mental well-being is a top priority.

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