Addressing Adolescent Depression: A Priority for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals
Adolescence is a crucial time in development in which an individual’s potential for successful transition into productive and healthy adulthood occurs. However, this is also the period in which mental disorders, collectively contributing the largest single component to the global burden of disease mostly onset. Seventy percent of all mental disorders can be diagnosed prior to age 25 years, with about 50% of all Depressions beginning during that time. Young girls are particularly at risk, with a much higher incidence of Depression than in males. By 2030, Depression will be the single largest contributor to the global burden of disease with significant negative impact on personal, family, community, economic and health outcomes. Low and middle-income countries, with their large population proportions of young people can be even more impacted. However, early identification and effective treatment of Depression can lead to much more productive and healthy lives and marked economic benefits. Thus, effectively addressing adolescent Depression can create a significant return on investment in human wellbeing and economic outcomes alike. This return on investment may be most significantly realized for young women.
Recently, with the support of Grand Challenges Canada, we have developed, applied and researched an innovative integrated Pathway Through Mental Health Care that has demonstrated significant and substantial outcomes in decreasing stigma, increasing mental health literacy, increasing referrals to community clinics from schools and increasing and improving clinical care for youth with Depression. This innovation has brought together two Canadian organizations: Teenmentalhealth.org and Farm Radio International together with partners in Malawi and Tanzania who have created a unique blend of youth focused radio programming; school based mental health literacy and training of community primary health care providers to demonstrate success in this important area.