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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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The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

10 IDEAS

Lilly Earley
03 March 2021
I believe that as a young person dealing with mental health issues, it would be helpful to see more advertising acknowledging all aspects of mental health. Obviously it is wonderful to see ads and charity promotion saying things like "talk to someone, take a walk, try breathing or a new hobby" because those are shown to improve mental health. However I think there should be more awareness that if it's a disorder or issue you can get professional help. I spent a long time not wanting to say how i was actually feeling because i thought people would think i was exaggerating or lying because it wasnt so extreme that i was endangering myself. I think people should be told that if they arent feeling better after the aforementioned ideas, that professional help is an option that they shouldn't be ashamed of. That checking it out at a GP appointment is as valid as going to the GP to say you have a rash or feel nauseous and are wondering how to help that. Now I have gotten help it has been so much easier to handle panic attacks or depressive moods because I know that's just what it is and I dont get frustrated with myself for not feeling better instantly. I think especially in the current climate acknowledging that there are 'bad mental health days' but also 'mental health disorders' would really help people feel more validated in seeking help rather than feeling their problems arent "big enough".

In summary I propose that In public awareness campaigns and advertising on mental health especially in the pandemic, should acknowledge mental health disorders (e.g. anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD)where feelings wont just disappear every time by going for a run or painting and that they make the public more aware of mental health services that are not exclusively helplines for the most dire circumstances.
Vlad-Dragoș Dărău
25 February 2021
Originally from Romania, but living and working in Spain since 5 years ago, I have suffered a burnout and am still suffering the effects of it which got worse with the pandemic. But the problem has its roots before the pandemic, in the lack of adaptation of schools to the current volatile reality, in the lack of studies being recognized as they should, lack of appreciation towards the young generation, exploitation in professional life ( a lot of extra, unpaid hours), rigid, non-adaptive authorities to current needs, lack of professional public healthcare for mental issues. On the other side, lately, the behavior towards people from other countries of the EU has worsen in Spain, apart from professional discrimination. So I think there are a lot of things to be done, starting with the educational system. We have to educate the people towards a more european identity, with schools collaborating with the private sector to fulfill its expectancies, we have to reform the public sector where a lot of incompetent people are employed and better paid than the more performant ones in the private sector and we have to define a common framework for respecting the rule of law for all EU citizens, in all countries. Apart from this, we need more performant healthcare systems capable of taking care of us individually and governments which are there for us when we need them, not against us. I have never received not even one free mask on my health card from one of the most performant public health systems in the world (the Spanish one), I have never been asked if I am mentally OK during the pandemic by my doctor (which perfectly knows that I am at risk from that point of view) , I will certainly be asked to pay the taxes on my income which only I know how I managed to maintain. I think a lot of ideas can be deduced from those facts. This text is more for national authorities in Spain, but because they don't usually listen to new ideas or not able to recognize mistakes, I will select EU institutions in the hope that it will have more effect on medium term.
Olga Tsiplaki
15 February 2021
Mental haelth issues especially in children are very common. They incloude depression, anxiety and are often a direct pesronce to what is happening in their lives. Young people should not worry about all this. They have to live a good life and enjoy their chilhood. The emotional wellbeing of children is so much important. If they have a good mental health they can develop resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and they will become well-rounded and healthy adults.
Covid-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. We all face challenges that can be really stressful and overwhelming and of cource they create strong emotions in adults and children. Social distacing made us feel isolated and lonely as we weren't able to see the people we love and all that increased stress and anxiety.
The only way we can get through these emotions is to be optimistic and we should try to keep our selfes busy doing something we love so that we won;t be able to think about all these issues. We want our family and friends near us to help us. It is okay to ask for help when you feel like you need it. This help can be provided by a doctor maybe or family& friends.
Samuele Rauti
09 February 2021
Mental health is not a sufficiently discussed topic, up till now. In fact the majority of adults still probably misunderstand what mental issues are and how to deal with them. Consequently, my generation, the so known Gen-Z, was raised with plenty of disinformation about this theme.
Fortunately, thanks to the advent of social media, many experts have decided to share their knowledge on the web in order to fight this big unawareness.That’s how some curious young people, like me, have got in contact with this significant but obscure world.
As a matter of fact people tend to erroneously associate the words “mental issues”, “psychologist” and “therapy” with madness and isolation. Actually, mental health can be affected and corrupted by the common events of our daily life and more specifically by how we handle them. A wrong point of view, an unclear vision of things, and an accumulation of toxic thoughts can lead us to overwhelming and burn out.
Moreover, mental health doesn’t refer to having no criminal tendency, not being sociopaths or acting bad and weird. A therapist would actually help people to better their way of thinking, give them a different view on their concerns, get rid of their bad habits, feel confident with their body, their sexual orientation, their identity and so on. However, almost nobody in my country is aware of that.
To sum up, I would like these themes to be more discussed at school and in the major public media, along with those of personal development, and populizers to be more efficiently supported by public administrations, as in my opinion this is a good way to start the process against misinformation, at least in the new generations.
We’re aiming to a greater world where there’s no discrimination, no alienation or isolation and no prejudice towards anyone, but how can we just imagine that without caring of such crucial situations?
All we need now is a step forward to bring that future we aspire into the present.
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.