April 23 has been declared the World Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day (WICAPHK) by the world’s leading psychiatric organizations for child and adolescence
Singapore: Research has shown that most mental disorders develop in childhood and adolescence (before the age of 25), and one-quarter of number of years lost to disability or illness for mental and substance use disorders occur in youths. Recognising the urgency to address this burgeoning issue and to galvanise the global community to take ownership and action, the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP), International Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology (ISAPP), World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH), and World Psychiatric Association Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (WPA-CAP) have jointly declared April 23 as the World Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day (WICAMHD) with a launch event on that day.
Children and adolescents form one third of the world’s population. Childhood and adolescence are foundational years and ideally a period of growth, learning and carefree exploration. However, many around the world are inflicted by trauma and crises – adverse experiences which research has demonstrated to impact lifelong mental and physical health.
Research has also shown that most mental disorders develop in childhood and adolescence (before the age of 25), and one-quarter of disability-adjusted life years for mental and substance use disorders occur in youths. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are also contributing factors in the development of mental disorders in adult years. The indirect and compounding effects of this is a ballooning economic burden on societies, especially in the areas of healthcare utilisation and productivity loss.
Below are excerpts from speakers at the Launch: Associate Professor Daniel Fung, President of the IACAPAP said, “Studies of adults with both mental and physical illnesses have also shown that adverse childhood experiences can have long lasting effects later in life. The emphasis by most governments has always been on adults in both financial budgeting as well as policy development. We hope to change this with the World Infant Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day, by relooking our priorities and having the right reasons for planning our future. If there is no health without mental health, then the key to health and well-being of people and nations lies with our young, and we should take early steps to protect their mental health.”
Prof Campbell Paul, President for WAIMH said, “Early intervention means intervening early in childhood and before mental health problems become established when it is more difficult to help the child or young person resume a healthy social and emotional developmental trajectory. Around the world mental health services for infants, children and adolescents are patchy and sparse with many countries and communities having literally no access to child mental health services,”
Prof Norbert Skokauskas, Chair for WPA-CAP said, “We are aware of the current unmet needs in global child and adolescent mental health and it’s critical for us to call for an integrated approach with a clear vision for change, political support and funding to implement the vision, and trained healthcare workforce to implement the change in clinical practice,”.
Prof Mario Speranza, President of the ISAPP said, “Supporting adolescents’ mental health is not just a duty toward a significant part of the population. It may be useful to remind ourselves that children and adolescents represent over a quarter of the world population. It’s much more a question of investing in the most promising elements of our society. Raise the awareness of the specific needs of children and adolescents and supporting their mental health means investing in our very own future. This is the reason for celebrating the World Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Day,”
The designation of Apr 23 as WICAMHD draws recognition of the importance of infant, child and adolescent mental health; and encourages stakeholders to advocate for the promotion of mental health and prevention of mental illness in the young by:
- Improving global public awareness about infant, child and adolescent mental health.
- Creating literacy and competencies in the promotion of infant, child and adolescent mental health as well as reducing the stigma of mental disorders in these populations.
- Improving diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infant, child and adolescent mental disorders through international cooperation and understanding.
- Reaching out to countries with scarce resources to develop infant, child and adolescent mental health professionals.
The prevalence of mental disorders continues to rise in the young and is higher than in older-age groups. An improved understanding of this, as well as better awareness among communities and helping professionals cannot be underestimated.