Health – How can we halt the rise of depression and suicide among young people? This topic was on the One Young World agenda the final day of The Summit. It was the session I was looking forward to the most, given my personal interest in the health and well-being of children and youth and my focus on Physical and Health Education Canada’s At My Best program – a resource for teachers that combines physical activity, healthy eating, and emotional well-being for students in kindergarten to grade 6.
The brief introduction, delivered by UN Goodwill Ambassador and Journalist James Chau, set the stage for Alicia Raimundo’s speech. This Young Health Programme One Young World delegate stunned the audience with her story dealing with mental health. It is young leaders like Alicia who hold the power to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Her decision to speak openly and honestly has the potential to encourage more dialog and prevent those suffering from suffering in silence. I am hopeful that her courageous decision to share her story will show others that they can too.
The remaining group of delegates who spoke at this session focused on initiatives designed to support youth mental health. Coupled with the statistics on the rise in depression and suicide among youth around the world, the need for greater attention and support for youth mental health was brought to the forefront of conference delegates and other world leaders. It reinforced the importance of programs like At My Best that seek to encourage open dialog on mental health and emotional well-being starting at an early age. I see this as a critical opportunity to encourage children and youth to recognize and honour their feelings and emotions, and to participate in the conversation on mental health across their life span. I see it as being an instrumental step in removing the stigma associated with mental illness.
At the end of the session, the audience made comments and posed questions to the group of delegates, including how to initiate difficult conversation within their families and their communities. This underlines the value in having a platform like the One Young World Summit for knowledge exchange and knowledge transfer as well as its potential reach and impact moving forward.