A focus on adolescence to reduce neurological, mental health and substance-use disability.
Davidson LL., Grigorenko EL., Boivin MJ., Rapa E., Stein A.
Globally, there is a crucial need to prioritize research directed at reducing neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders in adolescence, which is a pivotal age for the development of self-control and regulation. In adolescence, behaviour optimally advances towards adaptive long-term goals and suppresses conflicting maladaptive short-lived urges to balance impulsivity, exploration and defiance, while establishing effective societal participation. When self-control fails to develop, violence, injury and neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders can result, further challenging the development of self-regulation and impeding the transition to a productive adulthood. Adolescent outcomes, positive and negative, arise from both a life-course perspective and within a socioecological framework. Little is known about the emergence of self-control and regulation in adolescents in low- and middle-income countries where enormous environmental threats are more common (for example, poverty, war, local conflicts, sex trafficking and slavery, early marriage and/or pregnancy, and the absence of adequate access to education) than in high-income countries and can threaten optimal neurodevelopment. Research must develop or adapt appropriate assessments of adolescent ability and disability, social inclusion and exclusion, normative development, and neurological, mental health and substance-use disorders. Socioecological challenges in low- and middle-income countries require innovative strategies to prevent mental health, neurological and substance-use disorders and develop effective interventions for adolescents at risk, especially those already living with these disorders and the consequent disability.