Thumbnail from Unicef's video, On Our Minds: A Call to Increase Investment in Child and Youth Mental Health

Will you join us in calling for increased investment in children and young people’s mental health?

The UNICEF-led Global Coalition for Youth Mental Health, an alliance of UNICEF partners, is calling on organisations to sign an open letter calling for increased investment in mental health across all countries and in all sectors and settings, including humanitarian crises.

Around the world, poor mental health is causing immense suffering for children and young people. It is a leading cause of death, disease and disability, especially among older adolescents.

Everywhere, the chronic underinvestment in mental health promotion, prevention and care, combined with ongoing stigma and discrimination, the impact of Covid-19, and other growing global challenges, is taking a toll on children and young people’s lives. Half of mental health conditions develop before the age of 14. These conditions can impair both physical and mental health and limit children’s opportunities to lead fulfilling lives. Globally, suicide is now the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds.

Despite the growing demand for support, global investment remains insufficient. The global annual mental health finance gap is estimated to be at least US$200 billion. At the same time, it is estimated that the world loses nearly US$390 billion worth of human capital each year due to mental health conditions emerging in adolescence.

In the UK, the challenges are reflected both domestically, in terms of current waiting times for child and youth mental health support, and internationally, in terms of diminished financing for health and education, and resultingly mental health, in overseas development assistance budgets. We need to see the UK invest in mental health, and include mental health support in multi-sector responses to global challenges, such as pandemics, the climate and ecological crisis, and responses to non-communicable diseases.

Most countries allocate relatively small budgets to support health systems, and within those budgets an even smaller proportion – just 2% on average –is directed towards mental health support, including much-needed child and youth mental health services. This critical funding gap must be addressed so we can collectively meet the urgent mental health needs of future generations.

Our opportunity to shape the future for every child

We can change the current situation, but it will take a multi-sectoral response. Both the private and the public sectors have a key role to play, through investment and influence, to break this cycle and shape our collective future.

Mental health is important at every stage of life, and it is especially important for children and young people. When child and youth mental health is prioritised, the impact on young lives both now and for the future is significant. Mental health support improves young people’s quality of life and increases their chance of completing education. This leads to long-term economic returns and fewer premature deaths.

Acting early to support children, young people and caregivers is the best investment we can make to promote good mental health, prevent poor mental health, and respond to the complex mental health issues children face today.

Our call to action

To address this urgent issue we are calling for increased global investment and action on child and youth mental health. This powerful video highlights the critical need for action.

UNICEF and the Global Coalition of Youth Mental Health, along with wider organisations, are calling for global leaders across the public and private sectors to invest in:

  • Ensuring every child, young person and caregiver globally can access support for their mental health. This means increasing access to quality and holistic mental health support provided across sectors by investing in promotion, prevention and care for children, young people and caregivers, with a focus on community-based care that is effective, sustainable, age-sensitive and culturally appropriate.
    • Filling the evidence gaps on child and youth mental health. This means improving data and increasing research to better understand who is affected in each context and what works for specific at-risk groups, and to further expand our ability to respond across age groups, with a focus on promotion and prevention. This investment should aim to future-proof our response, ensuring resilience during pressing global challenges such as humanitarian emergencies and climate and ecological crises.
    • Developing internal strategies and practices. This includes fostering employees’ mental health and well-being by encompassing mental health support within the workplace and developing and adapting products or services offered by companies and in the wider community. This includes initiatives designed for young people and caregivers employed by organisations.

    How to get involved

    We invite eligible organisations to join our global movement by signing and sharing this Open Letter. Organisations must have 50 or more employees to participate. By signing, you will join our Coalition members and global leaders who are already signatures.

    As a signature, you will be helping UNICEF bring attention to this crucial message at significant upcoming events, including the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Week and the Summit of the Future.

    The deadline for signing the letter is 20 August at 18.00 CET.

    For more information about the Coalition, including opportunities to join, please visit or contact [email protected].
    Although our inner worlds are often unseen, our actions shouldn’t be.