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On World Mental Health Day: A call to invest in interventions for young people

Patricio V. Marquez's picture
Image: WHO World Mental Health Day 2018

Many of us have vivid memories of the joy and excitement of young adulthood, but this can also be a time of stress, apprehension and fear of the unknown. For many young people, this unease can lead to acute anxiety, severe depression or substance use disorders, if not recognized and managed.

Young people living in environments where they face death and suffering daily, such as in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015, in post-tsunami or earthquake-affected areas, or in countries experiencing extended conflict and violence, are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.

This year’s World Mental Health Day, on Oct. 10, recognizes this critical time in life with the theme “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” Many changes occur during adolescence and the early years of adulthood, but they are not always acknowledged or treated.

Campaign art: Addiction may not be obvious but its effects are real

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Do you have friends or people you follow on social media who always have a drink in their hand? Does that seem normal to you?  Did you ever wonder if they might have a problem?

Meet Louise Delage. She’s beautiful, trendy, and seems to lead a very glamorous life.  The only problem is she’s always drinking… and no one notices.  In the span of a few months, she was able to cultivate over 16,000 followers and 50,000 likes, few of whom noticed she is a functional alcoholic. The overwhelming majority of her followers just saw a pretty woman having fun, failing to notice her alcohol problem.

This is all part of a social campaign from Paris agency BETC called "Like My Addiction" rolled out for Addict Aide, which sought to raise awareness of alcoholism among young people. According to the organization, one out of every five deaths of young people each year is from addiction. The World Health Organization also warns of the hazards of alcohol, declaring that harmful alcohol consumption has now become "one of the most important risks to health: it is the leading risk factor in developing countries with low mortality rates and ranks third in developed countries, according to the World Health Report 2002."  Alcohol use contributes to a wide range of diseases, health conditions and high-risk behaviours, from mental disorders and road traffic injuries, to liver diseases and unsafe sexual behaviour.

The truth about Louise was revealed in a video published on Instagram and YouTube:
 
Like my Addiction

What explains advocacy success in setting global agendas? Comparing Tobacco v Alcohol and four other global advocacy efforts

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam researcher/evaluation adviser Uwe Gneiting introduces a new set of case studies

It’s an age-old puzzle – why do some advocacy and campaigning efforts manage to influence the political agendas of governments, international institutions and corporations but others don’t? What explains the difference in attention, resource mobilization, and policy traction of some issues (e.g. anti-Apartheid, HIV/AIDS) compared to others (e.g. the limited success of gun control advocacy in the U.S.)?

The technical response to these questions is that it’s an evidence problem – issues gain traction if there is sufficient evidence regarding their severity, cause and an effective solution. But as has been discussed elsewhere (including on this blog), focusing on evidence alone neglects the role of power and politics in explaining which issues gain attention and policy traction and which ones don’t.

This was why a group of researchers (including me) recently published a set of studies that put forward a more nuanced explanation for the variation in advocacy effectiveness. The way we approached the task was to analyze and compare pairs of issues (we focused on global health) of similar types and harm levels but varying attention (newborn vs maternal mortality, pneumonia vs tuberculosis, and alcohol vs tobacco). We ended up with ten factors across three categories that in conjunction help to explain varying levels of advocacy success (see table below)

What if We Allocated Aid $ Based on How Much Damage Something Does, and Whether We Know How to Fix It?

Duncan Green's picture

I usually criticize development wonks who come up with yet another ‘if I ruled the world’ plan for reforming everything without thinking through the issues of politics, power and incentives that will determine which (if any) of their grand schemes gets adopted. But it’s been a hard week, and today I’m taking time out from the grind of political realism to rethink aid policy.

Call it a thought experiment. Suppose we started with a blank sheet of paper, and decided which issues to spend aid money on based on two criteria – a) how much death and destruction does a given issue cause in developing countries, and b) do the rich countries actually know how to reduce the damage? That second bit is important – remember Charles Kenny’s book ‘Getting Better‘, which argues powerfully that since we understand how to improve health and education much better than how to generate jobs and growth, aid should concentrate on the former.