Mental health

Bringing cognitive behavioural therapy to young people.

Two girls embrace in India.
UNICEF/UNI143103/Singh

Two girls embrace in India.
UNICEF/UNI143103/Singh

How can we leverage cognitive behavioural therapy for young people affected by conflict and effectively combine it with other interventions?

The Issue

Globally, up to 20 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 suffer from mental health conditions each year.

This proportion is considerably higher in areas of conflict or humanitarian disasters. For example, up to 75 per cent of young people exposed to conflict suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental health issues have been attributed to young people dropping out of school, training and work. Mental health problems increase the likelihood of poverty, limit employment opportunities, and negatively impact work performance.

The Opportunity

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective broad-spectrum treatment. In addition to managing challenges young people have faced in their past, it can also be a mechanism that can help build their resilience to challenges they may face in the future. Recent attempts to integrate CBT with other interventions in education and skills training indicate the potential to deliver CBT affordably at scale in high-, middle- and low- income settings, and by those outside the formal mental health profession.

An experiment in Sierra Leone found that the young people who received CBT in a low-resource, post-conflict setting reported significantly greater improvements in emotion regulation and prosocial attitudes and behaviours. Participants were six times as likely as non-therapy recipients to persevere in school. Other benefits have been observed including a reduced propensity for violence.

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