by Dr Gladson Vaghela
The 10th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting (CYMM), held in London from September 11 to 15, 2023, was a gathering of leaders from 50 member nations, focused on critical issues affecting young people within the Commonwealth. Amidst the various topics discussed, one issue took centre stage – the health and well-being of our youth. The outcomes of this meeting hold a promise of a brighter future for the 1.8 billion young people across the Commonwealth, thanks to the ministers’ commitment to invest in their health.
Mental Health and Education
A significant concern addressed during CYMM was the profound impact of mental health on educational success. It’s an undeniable fact that mental health challenges have surged in recent times, exacerbated by the pandemic, global conflicts, and economic strains. This crisis has disproportionately affected children, young people, and women. Ministers at CYMM recalled the Dhaka-Kigali Compact on Mental Health, an agreement reached during the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). This compact serves as a guiding light for tackling mental health issues within the Commonwealth.
Addressing the Treatment Gap
A deeply troubling reality is the treatment gap and the absence of comprehensive mental health policies in a quarter of Commonwealth member nations. This statistic underscores the urgent need for action. At CYMM, ministers pledged their support for initiatives aimed at developing robust mental health policies. These policies will not only bridge the treatment gap but also promote the mental well-being of young people.
Raising Awareness and Reducing Stigma
CYMM’s outcomes also include commitments to launch focused well-being campaigns. These campaigns will play a vital role in raising awareness about mental health issues, reducing stigma, and encouraging open conversations about mental well-being. Breaking down the barriers to discussing mental health is essential for providing young people with the support they need.
Empowering Young Minds
Moreover, ministers recognized the importance of empowering young people in matters of mental wellness. Empowerment is key to effectively addressing mental health challenges. By providing young people with knowledge, tools, and resources to manage their mental well-being, we can cultivate a more resilient generation capable of overcoming life’s challenges.
The Role of the Commonwealth Youth Health Network (CYHN)
These commitments align closely with the Commonwealth Youth Health Network (CYHN), an accredited youth network of the Commonwealth Secretariat. CYHN, launched on June 24, 2016, at Marlborough House in London, UK, partners with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the 54 member countries in advancing health-related development goals, with a particular focus on adolescents and young people. CYHN strives to amplify the voices of young people from diverse backgrounds across the Commonwealth, addressing issues affecting their health and well-being.
The CYMM Expo
The CYMM Expo, held at Marlborough House in London, marked a pivotal moment in the journey towards improved youth health. This event served as a platform for individuals and organizations to showcase their efforts in promoting “health for all” among the youth. It was a melting pot of ideas, innovations, and inspiration, uniting a diverse group of individuals deeply passionate about the well-being of young people.
A Global Commitment
For many, the CYMM was an incredible opportunity to represent our networks and demonstrate the meaningful work being done to support youth. Personally, it was an honour to lend my voice to the 1.8 billion young people who look to us for leadership and advocacy. The CYMM was a testament to the power of collaboration, as young people and ministers from 50 countries united in their commitment to invest in the health of our youth. The shared vision of a brighter future, where every young person has access to quality mental health support and resources, transcended borders and ideologies.
In conclusion, the 10th CYMM in London has paved the way for a brighter future for the Commonwealth’s youth. The commitment to invest in youth health, especially mental health, is a significant leap forward. By addressing mental health challenges, launching well-being campaigns, reducing stigma, and empowering young people, we are forging a path towards a healthier, more resilient, and prosperous generation. The CYMM showcased the potential for positive change when we come together for a common cause. With these commitments in place, the future shines brightly for the 1.8 billion young souls who call the Commonwealth their home.