Mental health

Child and adolescent mental health

WHO / SEARO /Payden

Worldwide 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s. Neuropsychiatric conditions are the leading cause of disability in young people in all regions. If untreated, these conditions severely influence children’s development, their educational attainments and their potential to live fulfilling and productive lives. Children with mental disorders face major challenges with stigma, isolation and discrimination, as well as lack of access to health care and education facilities, in violation of their fundamental human rights.

The Department’s objectives, with respect to child and adolescent mental health, are:

  • to strengthen advocacy, effective leadership and governance for child and adolescent mental health;
  • to provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings for early recognition and evidence-based management of childhood mental disorders;
  • to implement strategies for promotion of psychosocial well-being, prevention of mental disorders and promotion of human rights of young people with mental disorders;
  • to strengthen information systems, evidence and research.

A consultation on "Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disorders" took place at WHO on 16 -18 September 2013. The meeting report is now available.


The comprehensive mental health action plan 2013–2020, adopted by the 66th World Health Assembly, provides a framework for strengthening capacities in countries to address the mental health needs of children and adolescents. The Department encourages the adoption of a life-cycle approach in implementation of mental health policies and strategies.


A resolution on “Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders” was adopted by the World Health Assembly during its 67th session in May 2014.


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