Youth in crisis are facing a range of challenges that can cause them to act out. During the Covid-19 pandemic, their daily lives became disorganized, disrupting routines and leading to feelings of hopelessness.
While some experimentation is normal for teenagers, if they’re regularly engaging in harmful behavior, it may be a sign that they need help. Getting them the right support can make all the difference.
The disenchanted youth – those who feel they are not part of society and that the world is passing them by – are in urgent need of support. They need to feel that their needs and concerns are heard and that they can contribute. They also need to be able to have a voice in decisions that affect them.
In nations with less wealth inequality, younger generations are more satisfied with democracy and see fewer generation gaps in attitudes to social justice, according to a new study. But in nations with persistently high economic exclusion, young people are more likely to be disenchanted and discontent.
Lynrose Jane Genon, a member of the Young Women Leaders for Peace in the Philippines, recently shared her experiences on youth engagement for global action at an International Youth Day event in India, prior to CBD COP 11. She spoke about how young people are often the first responders to disasters and build community cohesion through volunteering, online fundraising and translating coronavirus prevention materials into local languages.
With 71 million young people without jobs around the world, unemployment is a major concern. Unemployment undermines a young person’s sense of self-worth and can affect their mental health. It can also deprive them of income that can afford basic needs such as food and shelter. It is particularly harmful for young women who are disproportionately affected by unemployment.
Many countries provide income support for youth who are unable to find employment. However, there is growing debate about whether these schemes create dependency and hinder the search for employment.
The economic and political upheaval in many parts of the world is pushing youth into despair. Some resort to migration as a way of finding a better life, risking their lives to reach Europe or elsewhere. Others channel their frustration into youth nationalism (see the Migration feature). This global trend is a serious threat to peace and security. Efforts must be made to tackle these concerns.
Violence is a common part of the lives of many youths, especially in countries that are affected by armed conflict (see the Youth and War feature). It is also a factor in sexual exploitation of girls and boys, and in the polarisation of gender roles during armed conflict.
In the latest OECD survey, most participants reported that they had been subjected to physical or sexual violence since age 15. The most prevalent form of violence was fearing for one’s life, both for women and men.
The most effective programmes to reduce violent behaviour have a combination of elements, such as mental health support, relationship skills training, work-based learning and drug treatment. For example, a programme run by the CEO Richter in Brooklyn includes providing children who have psychiatric crises with a support team that can help rather than confront them with police officers. This type of approach should be widely replicated. Mental health hotlines set up during the COVID-19 crisis should also be maintained, and their funding needs increased.
In addition to economic and social factors, teens face unique psychological challenges. For example, a recent study found that poverty can have negative mental health effects, including increased risk of suicidal ideation and decreased coping skills.
Youth in crisis often feel they must handle the situation on their own and are afraid to ask for help. They may also have low mental health literacy and be uninformed about symptoms, resources, and coping strategies. In addition, they may worry that they’ll be seen as “lazy” or a burden.
In the wake of COVID-19, they’re grappling with additional stressors, like school closures and fearful future prospects. They’re also facing the loss of their communities, social support networks and safety nets. According to CDC data, 29% of high school students saw an adult in their home lose a job and 55% experienced emotional abuse. Some have even been displaced from their homes due to housing shortages. This has added to their anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.