Africa failing to invest in mental health problems in children and adolescents

Mental health problems are steadily increasing in Africa, greater investments are needed from local governments.

The world celebrated World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2021, this day has shown a light on the efforts being made to provide mental health support to children and adolescents in Africa. UNICEF and the WHO have expressed that there is a demand for increased investments for mental health support, responsiveness, and prevention. According to the WHO, in sub-Saharan Africa one in every seven children deal with significant psychological adversity. Mohamed Fall, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern African noted that “Our systems are still failing them,” with 50% of mental health problems developing by the age of 14 and 75% in the mid-20s more needs to be done. Africa’s investment in its youth’s mental wellness is predominantly low, with government currently spending less than one US dollar per capita.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed more pressure on the already growing mental health decline, with the youth experiencing hardships that most adults would struggle to deal with. In a time where schools are closing, job opportunities are dwindling and decreased social interaction the youth is left vulnerable to mental health problems. “The lack of access to basic social, health and education services, combined with wide-reaching structural inequalities, are all known to be aggravating risks for mental ill-health,” said Mr Fall. A 10-year, Joint Programme on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being and Development of Children and Adolescents in Africa has been agreed upon by UNICEF and the WHO. The programme that was signed in 2020 aims to partner with local governments in efforts to improve psychosocial and mental health support systems.