Global health body, the World Health Organization (WHO), has called on African countries to take seriously the management of common mental health problems.
Speaking on behalf of the WHO, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the body’s Regional Director for Africa, also called on parents, caregivers and teachers to build life skills of children and adolescents to help them in coping with everyday challenge.
Moeti made the call in her message to mark the 2018 “World Mental Health Day” celebrated yearly on 10 October.
She said that this period could come with stress and anxiety which often led to serious mental illness if not recognised and managed on time.
The WHO official said: “Adolescence and the early years of adulthood are a time of change; moving, schools, leaving home and starting work.
”For many, these can be times of stress and anxiety and these feelings can lead to serious mental health if they are not recognized and managed well.
“In the African region, it is estimated that five per cent of the population aged below 15 years suffer from a mental disorder.
“Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14 years but most cases go undetected and untreated with serious long term consequences for mental health.
“Children and adolescents in humanitarian settings are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.
“The harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs among adolescents contributes to risky behaviors such as violence, unsafe sex, and dangerous driving.
“Children and adolescents with mental health disorders often face stigma and limited access to health care and education in violation of their human rights.
“I therefore, call on governments in the region to develop and strengthen evidence-based programmes for young people with the support of national policy makers and programme managers.”