Vienna: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday called for wide ranging efforts at all levels to raise awareness about the importance of investing in and supporting young people with mental health conditions.
He said this would go a long way in helping such young people who "with understanding and assistance... can flourish, making valuable contributions to our collective future".
Ban, in his message for International Youth Day that is being marked Tuesday, said increased education is crucial in reducing stigma and in changing how we talk about and perceive mental health.
Citing a new publication issued by the UN that has found that 20 percent of the world's youth experience mental health problems each year, Ban said that the risks are particularly high during puberty, as children go through a transition into adulthood, but that some, fearing stigma, fail to seek the support they need.
"For this year's observance of International Youth Day, the United Nations wants to help lift the veil that keeps young people locked in a chamber of isolation and silence," he said.
Noting that the barriers can be overwhelming, particularly in countries where the issue of mental health is ignored and there is a lack of investment in mental health services, the UN chief said too often, owing to neglect and irrational fear, persons with mental health conditions are marginalised not only from having a role in the design and implementation of development policies and programmes but even from basic care.
"This leaves them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and social exclusion, and has a negative impact on society as a whole."
Ban said young people who are already considered vulnerable, such as homeless youth, those involved in the juvenile justice system, orphaned youth and those having experienced conflict situations, are often more susceptible to stigma and other barriers, leaving them even more adrift when they are most in need of support.
"We have just about 500 days to reach the Millennium Development Goals. We must support all young people, especially those who are vulnerable, to succeed in this historic campaign," he said.
"Let us enable youth with mental health conditions to realise their full potential, and let us show that mental health matters to us all," Ban concluded.