Evidence Summary
03 Jan 2011

Evidence for gender responsive actions to promote mental health: Young people’s health as a whole-of-society response

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe
30 mins
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What you'll learn
Evidence on what works to promote good mental health
  • A summary of the current knowledge on what works to promote good mental health, as well as effective methods for preventing and managing mental health problems, with a focus on gender-responsive actions.
  • A basis from which countries can further refine national policies and strategies to effectively contribute to the health and well-being of young people.
From evidence to policy
A basis to refine national policies and strategies

It offers a useful summary table of effective interventions and good practices in promoting mental health and managing mental health problems emphasises a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to young people’s health. Intersectoral governance and accountability are necessary; actions at various levels, interventions by health systems and health services, and health ministries, in particular, can work proactively with other sectors (via cross-sector policies) to identify practical policy options to max

A woman in glasses stands in front of a wall with graffiti in Bologna, Italy.

Effective strategies for mental disorders prevention and its risk factors’ cannot be gender neutral, while the risks themselves are gender specific, and women’s status and life opportunities remain low worldwide.

Key Takeaways
Adolescents are not a homogenous cohort
Adolescents are not a homogenous cohort

A common shortcoming of adolescent health programmes is that they are ‘gender blind’, viewing adolescents as a homogeneous cohort. Findings suggest young people’s mental health can be improved through four main strategies: by recommending comprehensive, multi-sectoral and evidence-informed approaches to adolescent health; delineating the critical contribution of the health sector (including the leadership role of ministries of health to influence other sectors, such as education, employment and social protection policies); taking action to reduce inequalities in health both within, and between, countries; and addressing gender as a key determinant of adolescent health.

A gendered perspective is key
A gendered perspective is key

Overlooking gender-based differences or gender biases are barriers to the accurate identification and treatment of psychological disorders, which can have drastic consequences.

Take an intersectional approach
Take an intersectional approach

Taking an intersectional approach to understanding young people’s mental health (gender and sex, alongside ethnicity and socioeconomic circumstances of their family or community, are just some of the factors influencing a person’s identity and experience ) helps to identify the root causes of differences between adolescent girls and boys.In turn, this helps pinpoint potential mental health protective factors which are crucial for designing effective mental health policies and interventions.

Women face specific gendered barriers
Women face specific gendered barriers

Currently, health services for women tend to focus on their reproductive needs and often neglect the needs of women outside of this. A lack of female medical personnel can also be a barrier for women in utilising healthcare services.

Access to services is impacted by gender
Access to services is impacted by gender

The provision of medical services alone is not enough to meaningfully reduce gender disparities in health. Viewing health through a gendered lens reveals the required steps to improve access, affordability and appropriateness for women when it comes to health services.

Ministries of health should take steps to develop and integrate gender relevant indicators in the existing national health information systems, and find mechanisms to monitor gender sensitivity in the health system.

A woman in glasses stands in front of a wall with graffiti in Bologna, Italy.

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