International Youth Day: All Importance and concern for economy

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There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever.
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever.

“The hopes of the world rest on young people. Peace, economic dynamism, social justice, tolerance — all this and more, today and tomorrow, depends on tapping into the power of youth.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children lives in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.

12 August was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

“Safe Spaces for Youth”

Youth need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision-making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.

Ensuring that safe spaces are inclusive, youth from diverse backgrounds especially those from outside the local community, need to be assured of respect and self-worth. In humanitarian or conflict-prone settings, for example, youth may lack the space to fully express themselves without feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome. Similarly, without the existence of safe space, youth from different race/ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or cultural background may feel intimidated to freely contribute to the community. When youth have safe spaces to engage, they can effectively contribute to development, including peace and social cohesion.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Goal 11, emphasizes the need for the provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization. Furthermore, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) reiterates the need for public spaces for youth to enable them to interact with family and have constructive inter-generational dialogue. Additionally, the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) which is the UN framework for youth development, prioritizes the provision of “leisure activities” as essential to the psychological, cognitive and physical development of young people. As more and more youth grow in a technologically connected world, they aspire to engage deeper in political, civic and social matters, and the availability and accessibility of safe spaces become even more crucial to make this a reality.

India’s Youth Power

“And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad, Made to his mistress’ eyebrow,” said Shakespeare about the third stage of life, that is the age of youth. How prophetic it is for the legendary playwright to call this age a “woeful ballad”, for now, it has been confirmed that suicide is the leading cause of death among the youth of India today! As per census 2011, there are 364.66 million youngsters in the 10-24 age group in the country. They constitute over 30 per cent of the total population.

This has led to India becoming one of the youngest nations of the world. However, to what advantage is this youth when it is fatigued by an unhealthy mind? It is sad that as a country, we are still shunning the subject of mental health and wellness when, for instance, in 2013, 62,960 young people died by suicide, as reported by the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Well-being. Self-harm is leading to 60,000 deaths in India on an annual basis, showed a global study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) based on the data from 2013.

As per the report, adolescence is “generally thought to be the healthiest” phase of one’s life. Because of this reason, adolescents have attracted very few resources. Also, as times are changing, the youth is facing more and newer challenges today, such as obesity, unemployment and mental health disorders.

Why are suicidal tendencies, rates and self-harm increasing in today’s youth?

Various global surveys have shown how screen time (smartphones, internet, and social media) has a direct correlation to development of symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation when compared to non-screen activities, such as exercising, reading books, interacting with a person and so on. Also, studies have cited how the use of Facebook is contributing to depressive symptoms. Also, as substance abuse is on a rise, it is no surprise that it is pushing the youth towards anxiety stress, paranoia and depression. Also, lack of school connectedness, less family connectedness, early sexual initiation and similar factors are contributing to a deteriorating mental health.

How to talk about mental health and suicide

An open communication is a first and foremost step towards preventing mental illness in youth. Often, parents and loved ones think that talking about suicide would implant the idea of suicides in the minds of those who may be at risk. However, know that this is an absolute myth! You MUST ask! Talking about suicide is the best form of prevention against it. If you think that matters are out of your hand, consulting an expert is always the best way out. There is no, and should not be any, shame in seeking a psychiatrist.

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