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Young people and mental health: What help do we need?

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Young people's mental health was already deteriorating before the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns, long periods of isolation and insecurity have further aggravated the situation.

  • How can we make it easier for young people to seek help and ensure everyone has access to adequate care?
  • How can we make effective programmes that are both broad and targeted, given that there are significant differences in experience of mental health depending on gender, ethnic status and LGBTI identity?
  • How do you take care of your mental health?
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Keith Judge
07 October 2020

In short, we can do a lot for our own mental health, but only if we know how. Mental health services across the European Union are being tested due to the stressors and torments associated with COVID-19 such as being ill or under lockdown.

Furthermore, I think the biggest issue with mental health care in the EU currently and especially within the Republic of Ireland is not stigmatization, although still a phenomenal issue, but accessibility to these services and for a reasonable price. The EU can take many approaches to not only decrease national backlogs of service users but to decrease stigmatization, increase accessibility and inclusivity of sexual and ethnic minority groups.  

> Education: Additional educational reformations across the union targeting younger age cohorts and minority groups to encourage an active and progressive dialogue regarding mental health. Promoting the notion that it is not ‘taboo’ or that we need to ‘walk on eggshells’ when mentioning the topic. This may generate a more collective and universal tone within educational institutions and the youth of Europe that it is fine to talk about your mental health, thus, reducing further stigmatization.

> Employability: Actively encourage public and private health care providers to hire psychology graduates for internships and/or training, leading to an escalation in a more formidable work force of psychologists, psychotherapists, and counsellors within EU countries. This may result in more funding but a less challenging backlog of service users.

> Research: Provide additional support and funding to researchers to investigate the best approaches qualitatively and quantitatively, to psychotherapy, educational psychology and other applied disciplines of psychology. Additional financial support may be paramount to consider for research on eHealth tools and software available to service providers during COVID-19 and which method is more empirical and heads more results. Finally, accessible funding for the production and presentation of more youth-friendly methods of dissemination of information. For instance, funding for infomercials, documentaries and spoken word adverts regarding mental health.

> Minority Groups: Additional funding for the specific targeting of sexual and ethnic minority groups and how they are dealing with not only COVID-19 but other potential stressors potentially stemming from societal unrest or social movements. This can be associated with education and research as not only is quantitative and qualitative research needed but also educational reform regarding racism, homophobia and discrimination in general. I believe the EU needs to take a progressive approach in encouraging member states to educate young (teens) about what race is? What does LGBTQI+ stand for? Why are there PRIDE events in some parts of the world but not all? I think these topics are paramount to depress levels of bigotry and open the minds of our youth more, which may result in less mental health issues associated with victimization of discrimination. 

Jade
07 October 2020

The number of mental illnesses recorded in the younger generations keep on increasing (millennials and gen zers alike). Some studies found than three out of four adolescent suffered from at least one mental health disorder. Suffering from mental illness is now normalised with young people joking openly about their various mental breakdowns, their anxiety, depression and so on on the internet. Newer generations make it less taboo to suffer from mental illness and yet in 2016 less than 10% French Gen Zers were seeking mental health help by seeing a therapist. Why so? I believe that the first reason is the access to such help. Young people don’t often know where to look for help, how to do so. And few free infrastructures exist. Going to the therapist is a weekly cost many young ones can’t afford across the EU. One idea would be to implement more programs to help youths access mental health help for free.
While the UK was still in Europe, the NHS started the “Every Minds Matter” campaign that I found very interesting. Giving access to mental health help is always tricky, especially in the EU with different states having different health regulations. We should then have an online platform providing help regarding relaxation, meditation and such. We could have some kind of “test” to determine the person’s need and propose practical things to do: exercise (with a few videos); meditation (with sounds or videos),etc.

Justus
06 October 2020

The most important thing in my opinion - that addresses all these issues - is human to human interaction. I realize the gravity of the Covid-situation but closing schools and universities is the worst thing you can do to young people. Do enforce masks, a meter distance, handwashing... But please let us meet one another face to face. Last year was my first year in uni and it was one of the most important moments in my life, to meet new people. The exchanges of ideas and feelings that happens maybe during a lecture break just doesn't occur during Zoom meetings. And it's precisely these exchanges that lead to deep and meaningful friendships. And then it's these friends who you might be able to trust or call or reach out to if you suffer from mental health issues. Hence, these moments when you are forced to leave your house and go to a place, primarily to learn something but fundamentally to exchange yourself with your peers are vital to mental health, if anyhow manageable, please don't strip us of them. Online cannot replace real life.

Anssi Eboreime
28 January 2020

First let us consider the background: mental health problems affect around 1 in every 6 Europeans and cost EU around €600bn. On average, mental illness costs EU countries more than 4% of GDP

This means that the mental health crisis is a public health and a economic crisis.

There are many issues that affect mental health, and according to findings published by the American Psychological Association mental health issues have increased significantly in young adults over last decade while corrsponding figures have not spiked in a similar fashion in older generations.
This means that somehow the environment in which younger generations (namely millenials and Gen Z) are growing up in causes higer rates of mental illness.

This has caused a massive rise in the amount of people in need of care, a demand that the healthcare sector has been woefully unprepared for.

Currently the most pressing issues relating to mental healthcare are the following:
1) Access to care
2) Preventative action
3) destigmatization and education.

Access to care is affected by many issues, one being the lack of mental health professionals, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and others - in 2018 Fine Gael TD Jim Daly from Ireland said “2,000 positions [for psychiatrists] have been approved and funded but the people with the necessary skillset are not out there”. )

According to the EU COMPASS FOR ACTION ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING scientific paper "EU COMPASS FOR ACTION ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH CARE IN EUROPE" there is a need and a concensus that more mental healthcare needs to be incorporated into primary care. Also there is a great need for community based services.

Lastly one I have noticed as an onlooker and as a healthcare professional is that many national guidlines cut treatment short, leaving people on the road to recovery on their own and they often relapse.

Some ideas:
Shortly I wish to present some ideas:
1 - Separating psychiatric training from regular medical school, in the same fashion as dentistry. Psychiatry is such a specialised discipline that it would be faster, more efficient and more sensible to train psychiatrists towards their speciality from the beginning.

This way we get more specialised workers faster. Instead of having them first go through 6 years of medical school and then a comparable amount of time in specialisation we could train them in that 6 years to be fully fledged psychiatrists.

2 - Treatment guidlines must be extended, relapse patients make up the bulk of cases in treatment.

3 - More pscyhology students should be directed towards clinical specialities or similar.

4 - A cross Europe recognised vocational training as a pscyhiatric care person must be created so that we can provide support staff to ease the acute need for some people. Often just a sympathetic ear can help a long way.

5 - Sociology mus become an integral part of the mental healthcare process and Clinical Sociologists must get a more prominent role in European prmary care in general due to their very important role in preventing new mental illness cases.

Melanie
12 October 2019

I think we urgently need to shift the conversation around mental health to create an open, healthy and accepting awareness and support for mental and emotional well-being. We can do that by sharing people's stories with their mental health issues and how they got better. We also need to communicate on the possible consequences when we don't take care of our well-being. I wish the European Union would support NPOs/NGOs more which help with these issues.
Also, we need to make treatment more accessible. Talking about young people, they probably don't have all the means that it take to afford professional help. In that sense, I would love more campaigning on a european level, to create awareness and educate citizens on the importance of mental health. WE WOULD ALL BENEFIT FROM IT. It could also be a big chance for the European Union to take a leading role. Moreover, the #3 SDG is "Good Health and Well-Being". So let's act on it!

Dimitar Bozov
08 August 2019

I believe the problem with youth mental health is not one big problem but 2 smaller ones. Firstly accessing good mental health professionals is problematic because people either have to go through a lot of waiting if they are from a European country with public health care or have to pay relatively large sums if they are from a European country with more private health care. In both cases, we need to make mental health care more accessible and have better trained health care professionals but this is not the main issue. The main issue is that there is still a prevalent stigma around mental health in most of the countries in the eu. Mental health awareness is necessary and people need to be educated about different medication and alternative mental health treatments. How can this be achieved? I believe that any sort of govermental education camping might actually be more counter-productive. The best way of shaping public opinion is through the media. This means movies, videos songs, documentaries ect. about mental health. Only if the EU had more developed film industry.

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