Youth mental health is a growing concern for parents and policymakers around the world. Adolescence is a formative time in which personal changes and exposure to trauma can make a teen vulnerable to psychological illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder.
When left untreated, these illnesses can affect a child’s quality of life. Young people and their families need socio-emotional support and access to mental health services to develop resilience and healthy coping mechanisms.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST), an intervention program for at-risk youth, proves to be one of the most effective programs for children with mental health concerns and diagnosed psychological illnesses.
In this article, we dive into global youth mental health statistics and explain how MST programs can offer crucial assistance to those in need.
Mental Health Statistics Around the World
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 14% of 10-19 year-olds experience mental health concerns – many of which are unrecognized and untreated.
UNICEF reports that, as of 2019, anxiety and depression are the most common psychological disorders among children (42.9%). Other common illnesses include conduct disorder (20.1%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (19.5%), and idiopathic developmental intellectual disability (14.9%).
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a rise in youth mental health concerns. A 2021 meta-analysis of 29 studies surveying a total of 80,879 youth around the world found depression and anxiety symptoms to be “significantly higher” after the novel coronavirus spread and lockdowns began.
The non-profit organization recognizes the burden that children around the world carry. In an attempt to bring relief, UNICEF partnered with the Z Zurich Foundation to create the Global Coalition for Youth Mental Well-being, which seeks to increase governmental mental health expenditure. As it stands, about 2.1% of worldwide health budgets support mental health resources and programs while national economies experience a collective $387.2 billion loss in human potential. “The cost in terms of how it affects real lives, however, is incalculable,” UNICEF states.
Failure to address trauma and evidence of mental health disorders early in life puts children around the world at a disadvantage. Not only does it put their lives at risk, but it can make it difficult for teens to stay in school, develop healthy relationships, hold down a job, and make responsible life choices – all of which can increase an individual’s chances of entering the juvenile justice system.
How Mental Health Conditions Can Affect Youth
The effects of mental health conditions on young people cannot be understated.
According to WHO, children with psychological concerns are at risk of:
- Mood Disorders. Anxiety and depression are commonly seen in adolescents. Both disorders can affect school performance, exacerbate loneliness, and make it difficult for an individual to control their mood.
- Poor School Performance. Anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder can increase a youth’s chances of dropping out of school and entering the juvenile justice system.
- Suicide and Self-Harm. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in teens 15-19 years old. Risk factors for suicide include substance use, childhood abuse, and barriers to mental health care.
- Risk-Taking Behaviors. Many young people use risky behavior as a coping mechanism. Globally, 13.6% of teens episodically and heavily drink alcohol, and 4.7% use marijuana. Additionally, interpersonal violence was a leading cause of death in young adult males in 2019.
According to the report, 30% of children in the justice system have 4 or more diagnosed psychological disorders. While 20% of youth ages 13-18 in the general population have a documented mental illness, the same can be said for 70% of justice-involved youth.
This data suggests that children with mental health concerns are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system. As such, youth and their families need access to adequate programs and services, like MST.
How MST Helps Youth Mental Health Conditions
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a mental health program that is designed to support justice-involved youth, children who experience child abuse and neglect, and youth with psychiatric needs. Multisystemic Therapy Psychiatric (MST-Psych), specifically, is an adaptation that primarily targets youth between the ages of 9 and 17 at risk of out-of-home placement due to displays of maladaptive behavior and co-occurring mental health symptoms, including bipolar affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance use/abuse.
MST utilizes a suite of interventions, such as Family Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Evidence-Based Substance Abuse Interventions, Mental Health Services, Peer Ecology Assessment and Intervention, Trauma-informed treatment, and Educational/ Vocational Support. Each MST program is tailored to the individual and their family’s unique strengths and needs.
Our program results show that children who complete MST-Psych have a 73% reduction in days hospitalized, a 68% decrease in days spent in out-of-home placement, and a 42% increase in school attendance. Furthermore, MST-Psych participants express decreased rates of attempted suicide, improved family relations, and caregiver empowerment.
MST mental health programs around the world have the potential to recognize mental health concerns early, provide adequate care, and put children and their families on track for a healthier future.
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is an evidence-based alternative to incarceration or severe system consequences due to serious externalizing, anti-social, and/or criminal behaviors. MST effectively treats youth and their families by utilizing a built-in suite of interventions within the home, school, and community settings. Treatment is tailored to the family and their individual strengths and needs which could include but is not limited to the following types of therapies: Family Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Drug and Alcohol treatment, Mental Health Services, Peer Ecology Assessment and Intervention, Trauma-informed treatment, and Educational/ Vocational Support.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about Multisystemic Therapy, contact us here.