The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unimaginable loss, grief, trauma, and isolation at a global scale — challenging our collective mental health and well-being. Schools across the globe were shuttered for months at a time as the virus spread, keeping children from learning, playing with friends, and accessing an essential social safety net. Many families were pushed into poverty, and children in lockdown were especially vulnerable to violence at home. Children and adolescents have been deeply affected by the mental health impacts of the pandemic and could feel them long after it ends.

According to a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on child, adolescent, and caregiver mental health, the pandemic may represent the tip of a mental health iceberg.

Released ahead of World Mental Health Day this year, The State of the World’s Children 2021 report offers a sobering examination of children’s mental health today, underscoring the severity of the mental health challenges children and adolescents face that can lead to disability, disease, and death.

  1. The problem is of epidemic proportions: More than 13% of adolescents aged 10-19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). But nowhere are the often-hidden mental health needs of children and adolescents being fully met
  2. Children everywhere are suffering: Globally, 89 million adolescent boys aged 10-19 and 77 million adolescent girls aged 10-19 live with a mental disorder — 40% of them anxiety and/or depression.
  3. Numbers don't tell the whole picture. The data fails to capture the true extent of all undiagnosed mental disorders and psychosocial distress felt by the world’s children. Child labor, abuse, and gender-based violence are increasing, as millions more families are experiencing poverty due to pandemic shutdowns.
  4. It's well past time to support mental health. Mental health disorders cannot be ignored, nor can their devastating impact on families, communities, and lives. It is time for governments to act. Children’s mental health has remained underfunded, untreated, and often ignored for too long.
  5. Mental health is health. The real, lived experiences of children and teenagers must be acknowledged, listened to, and taken seriously by the adults in their lives. The mental health of young people has to be protected both at home and in school.

Read the full article about children's mental health by Logan Nesson at United Nations Foundation.