Journal of Adolescent Health is proud to present a new supplement issue in progress, Measure of Adolescents' Mental Health at the Population Level.
As supplement articles complete JAH's rigorous peer review process and are published online ahead of the full issue as Articles in Press, please continue to visit this dedicated page as its updated to read, learn from, and share this important work:
Measurement of Adolescents’ Mental Health at the Population Level
Guest Edited by
Robert W. Blum MD MPH PhD
Department of Population Family and Reproductive Health
Johns Hopkins University
Caroline Kabiru, PhD
African Population and Health Research Center
- This study aimed to understand 10- to 19-year-old adolescents' conceptions of mental health and well-being, and suggestions for appropriate interventions, in three low- and middle-income countries to inform the design of adolescent-responsive preventive and promotive mental health programming.
- Mental disorders are among the leading causes of disability among adolescents aged 10-19 years. However, data on prevalence of mental health conditions are extremely sparse across low- and middle-income countries, even though most adolescents live in these settings. This data gap is further exacerbated because few brief instruments for adolescent mental health are validated in these settings, making population-level measurement of adolescent mental health especially cumbersome to carry out. In response, the UNICEF has undertaken the Measurement of Mental Health Among Adolescents at the Population Level (MMAP) initiative, validating open-access brief measures and encouraging data collection in this area.
- Effective intervention, policy, and research in mental health and well-being (MHWB) require young people to be understood not only as beneficiaries, but also as active agents in codesigning and implementing initiatives. To identify pathways for young people’s participation in promoting MHWB in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), this study surveyed young people’s aspirations for engagement, their spheres of influence, capacity building needs, and key barriers to participation.
- The majority of mental disorders have their first onset during adolescence  and are among the leading causes of disability in this age group . However, there are limited commensurate prevalence data . In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in particular, prevalence data remain severely limited despite these countries having higher proportions of adolescents in their populations [3,4]. Prevalence data are required for generating accurate epidemiological and burden estimates, while also informing service planning and efficient resource allocation.
- The 2030 Sustainable Development agenda, officially adopted by 193 countries in 2015, is the first global monitoring framework that features mental health, an area critical to development that has previously been neglected and not attracted much-needed investment. Target 3.4 aims at reducing by 2030 premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by one third, through prevention, treatment, and promotion of mental health and well-being. A specific related indicator is the suicide mortality rate.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of young people around the world, who are living through an unprecedented global public health crisis. Prolonged school closures and mandated social distancing requirements have impacted the well-being of young people across multiple dimensions. This has heightened fear, isolation, helplessness, sadness, worry, disappointment, and anger as well as other psychological distress among adolescents [1–4] [polls: [5,6]].
- The majority of mental health problems commonly emerge in adolescence, coinciding with a pivotal point in individual development that lays the foundations for future and intergenerational health . As a result, poor mental health in adolescence can impact on educational attainment, social relationships, societal productivity, and quality of life in the short and long term, and potentially across generations [2,3]. Yet, policy and practice responses to address poor adolescent mental health have been inadequate almost everywhere.
- Mental health has long been recognized as fundamental to well-being, reflected in the 1946 constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) where health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” . As such, it is important to address mental health across the life course, but of particular importance during adolescence (10–19 years), a unique and formative period for social and emotional development which lays the foundation for long-term and intergenerational health and well-being .
- Despite growing awareness of mental health conditions in recent years, funding for mental health science has not increased. The 2020 International Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders report “The Inequities of Mental Health Research Funding”  reveals some stark inequalities and highlights issues with resource allocation. Although the global cost of mental health conditions is projected to exceed $6 trillion by 2030 , global investments in mental health research have remained approximately $3.7 billion per year in real terms between 2015 and 2019, equating to roughly 50 cents per person per year.
- In low- and middle-income countries, there are limited data on mental disorders among adolescents. To address this gap, the National Adolescent Mental Health Surveys (NAMHS) will provide nationally representative prevalence data of mental disorders among adolescents in Kenya, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This paper details the NAMHS study protocol.
- Lack of identification and referral of children and adolescents with mental health problems contributes to the treatment gap in low- and middle-income countries, and especially in humanitarian settings. The Community Case Detection Tool (CCDT) is developed to improve community-based detection and increase help-seeking among children and adolescents in need of mental health care. The CCDT uses brief, easily understood pictorial vignettes that represent common symptoms of childhood internalizing and externalizing problems.