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UNICEF-OMS Conference financed by Italian Development Cooperation “Leading Minds for Children and Young People” (Firenze, 7-9 November)


Increase in child and adolescent mental disorders spurs new push for action by UNICEF and WHO

Up to 20 per cent of adolescents globally experience mental disorders, and around 15 per cent of
adolescents in low-and middle-income countries have considered suicide

NEW YORK/GENEVA/FLORENCE, 5 November 2019 – With the alarmingly high rates of self-harm,
suicide and anxiety among children and young people around the world, UNICEF and the World Health
Organization are teaming up with some of the world’s leading minds to tackle this growing threat.

“Too many children and young people, rich and poor alike, in all four corners of the world, are
experiencing mental health conditions,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “This looming
crisis has no borders or boundaries. With half of mental disorders starting before age 14, we need urgent
and innovative strategies to prevent, detect and, if needed, treat them at an early age.”

In a joint push to put child and adolescent mental disorders higher up on the global health agenda,
UNICEF and WHO will co-host their first ever conference on the topic in Florence, Italy, 7-9 November.
The conference is part of Leading Minds, UNICEF’s new annual global conference series to highlight major
issues affecting children and young people in the 21st century. Part of celebrations and initiatives marking
the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the conference has been organized with
the financial support of the Italian Government through the Italian Development Cooperation and will lead
to recommendations for decisive action informed by scholars, scientists, governments, philanthropists,
business, civil society and young people themselves.

According to the latest data:
• Up to 20 per cent of adolescents globally experience mental disorders.
• Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-19-year-olds worldwide.
• Around 15 per cent of adolescents in low-and middle-income countries have considered suicide.

The cost of mental disorders is not only personal; it is also societal and economic. And yet, child and
adolescent mental health has often been overlooked in global and national health programming.

“Too few children have access to programmes that teach them how to manage difficult emotions,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Very few children with mental health conditions have access to the services they need. This must change.”

Leading Minds 2019 will look at the resources, partnerships, services, political commitment and public support needed to promote the mental health of children and young people. The conference will examine the rationale and the results from the state of the science and practice including the latest evidence on brain health in the earliest years of life, through early and middle childhood and adolescence. It will consider gaps in data that need to be addressed as well as programmes that have been successful. It will also interrogate the overall prevalence of mental ill health across ages and geographies, causes and contributing factors, and programmes for preventing and treating disorders and promoting healthy minds.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit

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For more information, please contact:
Sarah Crowe, UNICEF Innocenti,
Helen Wylie, UNICEF New York, +1917 244 2215,