It is estimated that 20% of adolescents worldwide have a behavioural or mental health problem, in total around 3 million people.  Half of the mental disorders emerge before the age of 14 old and the 70% before the age of 24.

Mental health problems in adolescents lead to high social and economic costs.  The risk factors of mental health problems include: abuse in childhood; domestic violence and in the school and the neighbourhood; poverty; social exclusion and inequalities in education. Also, social turmoil and the anxiety related to war, natural disasters and other humanitarian crisis are risk factors to have into account.

In addition, the stigma associate with teen suffering from a mental health disease, and the human right violations to which they are subjected increase de negative consequences.

According the WHO, children and adolescents with a mental health problems have to receive early evidence-based psychosocial interventions and non pharmacological in their communities, and avoiding the medicalization. This interventions have to follow the children rights endorsed at the United Nations Convention on children rights and other international and regional regulations on human rights.

Below we have listed some key facts on child and adolescent mental health.

Mental disorders and suicide risk

Depression is the illness that contributes most to the global morbidity burden in teens of 15 to19 years old, and suicide is the second cause of death in people aged between 15 and 24 years. UNICEF estimated that 71.000 adolescents commit suicide annually, and a number 40 times higher attempt to suicide.

According to UNICEF, developmental delays, autism and other general disorders of child development arose in the first months of life. Behavioural problems are present since the age of 2, anxiety symptoms from the 4-5 years old or even before, drug and alcohol consumption from 11-12 years old, the schizophrenia similar to the one of adults are present in the age of 14-15 years and depression from the 5-6 years.

The lack of knowledge of parents

In the United Kingdom, 70% of children and adolescents who have a mental health problem has not received and early care intervention at an earlier age.  Within the different barriers in the access to mental health care – personal, geographical, economic, social, and from the health system itself-, it is important to highlight the role of parents in the access to healthcare of their sons. Data from a  MindEd survey of 2015 established that in the Unied Kingdom, 38% of parents do not know the signs and the symptoms to have in mind to assess the mental health of their children.

Child abuse

Around the 70% and the 80% of children that suffer abuse develop a mental health problem.  It is a reason of concern as, for instance in Spain, two out of ten students of primary and higher schools are victims of bullying.

 Lack of child psychiatrists

Although half of mental health diseases appear before the age of 14 and that 20% of children and adolescents have a mental health problem, most of the middle and low-income countries have only one child psychiatrist per 1 to 4 million people.

child and adolescent mental health

The impact of poverty

Children living in poverty in cities have higher rates of depression and anxiety tan the urban population average. Several studies have mentioned that mental health problems in childhood and adolescence could affect seriously in the growth, the development, the school performance, in the family and Friends relationship and also could rise the risk of suicide. Another associated factor is the stigma of children to be seen as a son or daughter of the poorest and most marginalised people.


According to UNICEF, worldwide there are 165 million of children under 5 suffer delay growth or have chronic malnutrition. Among them, more tan 100 million children is weighing less than the average. A poor feeding or an unbalanced diet where there is a lack of some vitamins and minerals may make children more vulnerable to specific disorders or infections that may lead in physical or mental health problems.


La Vanguardia, Mental Health Foundation, MindEd, NHS, The Lancet, OMS, UNICEF.

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