Bringing cognitive behavioural therapy to young people.

In 2018, Hire the Youth adopted the idea of online discussions on mental health with special emphasis given to depression. The discussions aimed at providing targeted support to young people experiencing mental health challenges.

From the results gathered with the available resources at hand, the team found it best to zero down to focusing on answering one question that could easily become a solution;

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

To answer the above question, let’s first discuss the issue at hand, mental health among young people.

According to a report by the World Health Organisation, globally, up to 20 per cent of young people aged 15 to 24 are believed to 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, limited employment opportunities, and negatively impact work performance.

So, why do we have to look at cognitive behavioural therapy as an option for the results?

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.

A recent experiment as reported by WHO found that the young people in Sierra Leone 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.

CBT has been proven to help young people learn how to interpret their changing environment differently as compared to other therapeutic approaches. This type of affordable therapy for our target audience can further provide benefits such as:

  • Improve communication with others
  • Reduce fears and phobias
  • Interrupt thoughts that lead to addictive or other self-destructive behaviours
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Identify positive responses to stress
  • Change negative thought patterns


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