Health

Emotional well-being, a childhood right

Every November 20, Children’s Day is celebrated around the world to commemorate the date on which the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified human rights treaty in history, entered into force. The World Children’s Day draws attention to important issues that affect the lives of the youngest people and supports the commitment of children and adolescents to defend their own rights. This year, from UNICEF, we wanted to ask boys and girls what the world is like in which they would like to grow up. And we have done it because we have considered that deepening the knowledge of children’s rights from an emotional and empathetic perspective is getting closer to the essence of people, promoting respect for rights and the assumption of responsibilities.

Mental health as a child’s right

In recent years, concern about issues related to the emotional well-being of childhood and adolescence has grown. This well-being or mental health, as part of general health, is a right of the child and we must ensure their protection and promotion from all areas.

All over the world, one in seven children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 (13% of the total) has a diagnosed mental health problem. The anxiety and the depression are 40% of these problems. Half of mental health disorders start around the age of 14, and 75% of all such disorders develop by age 24, yet most cases go undetected and therefore untreated.

From March 2019 to March 2021, diagnoses related to mental disorders in pediatric emergencies increased by 10%, according to the Spanish Society of Pediatric Emergencies. Furthermore, the official data reflect that in 2020 the cases of suicide in boys and girls under 14 years of age they doubled.

Also, a survey carried out by UNICEF Spain and the University of Santiago among 40,000 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 for the study on the impact of technology on adolescence revealed that 15% of those who responded had severe or moderately severe symptoms of depression, and that the rate of suicidal ideation stands at 10.8%.

These data urge us to act because they are not cold figures on mental health. Behind each number there is a child or adolescent who needs us and deserves to be heard, and we have to tell them that we are here so you can speak openly of what happens to them.

Because the biggest risk is to look the other way and indulge ourselves with what we do. We must commit all people, because ending stigma and discrimination is a joint effort: from governments to society, including organizations such as UNICEF. It is a fundamental task to avoid the exclusion of children and young people with some kind of emotional distress or mental health problem.

right childhood emotions unicef
Image: © UNICEF/UN0527910/Unruh

Putting the focus on the healthy and full development of childhood and adolescence is investing in the society of the present and the future, it is a safe bet. Failure to do so has an incalculable impact on the lives of children. and we can do it through measures as simple as:

  • listen to children and adolescents.
  • support their families and carers to better understand your needs.
  • to guarantee that schools support mental health and be truly nurturing environments for emotional well-being.

Learn to manage emotions

This accompaniment to children and adolescents to manage difficult emotions will help to overcome the most delicate moments. Because emotions are the natural way in which human beings react to what happens around us. We all have emotionsit is important not to suppress them or feel ashamed and embarrassed by them.

Emotions come and go throughout the day, some are less intense and pass and others are more intense and stay, becoming moods. There are so many ways to feel emotions as human beings in the world. It is important that we do not label them, they are neither good nor bad. All emotions are necessary!

As boys and girls grow older and begin to develop into youth, their bodies and brains are undergoing major changes and it is natural to feel that there are new or stronger emotions coming and going.

  • The fear It shows them that they may be in danger and should be careful, or that something like a test or a meeting with friends could go wrong. Fear serves to be alert to danger. Taking precautions and talking to someone you trust about what you fear can help.
  • The frustration It allows them to see those realities that don’t turn out the way they want, and learning to solve problems and ask for help when they need it is a solution.
  • The sadness It is the reaction they can have when something moves them; like the loss of a loved one or listening to a song that takes them to another place or time. The sadness will pass and, if it doesn’t, they can ask for help.
  • The happiness It shows them that sharing what they think and feel with friends, with the family, drawing, singing, writing, or playing sports, makes them feel good and that they should do it more frequently.

All boys and girls must learn to manage their emotions, because keeping them away will not help them receive help or feel better. And each one of us will have to be there for when they look at us and tell us.

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