The French Ministry for Solidarity and Health, as part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, organised an event on “mental health of vulnerable young people” on 14-15 March. MHE was invited to speak on the situation and needs related to the mental health of vulnerable young people in the EU27, and on concrete and priority actions to address these needs.
MHE Director Claudia Marinetti highlighted how the past few years have been difficult for people’s mental well-being, especially that of young people, who saw interruptions in their education and in the transition from education to employment, and experienced disruptions in their social support networks. These years have however also increased interest in mental health, especially among young people. It is now vital to keep supporting awareness raising activities to combat stigma, which is a major barrier to seeking support for mental health problems. One such initiative is the upcoming European Mental Health Awareness Week organised by Mental Health Europe, which this year will focus on youth and will take place from 9 to 13 May.
Besides combatting stigma, Dr Marinetti stressed the need to realise that people have now started to understand mental health and to know that situations, relationships, and life events play a key role in mental health. This is supporting the growing evidence that a biomedical model considering mental health problems as due to purely biological factors to be diagnosed and cured, is not providing solutions. EU member states need to show people that they invest in mental health and that they make the right investments.
- They should look into the social determinants of mental health.
- They need to look into the multiple barriers that prevent young people from enjoying the highest possible standard of mental health, and then tailor their answers to them.
- They need to have long-term national action plans at member state level dedicated to mental health and coordinated at EU level.
- They need to design integrated services that accompany people throughout their lives and accommodate for transition periods, such as those between childhood and adulthood.
How can member states increase the impact of their investments and get buy-in from people across Europe? By making sure that those for whom they are investing are truly involved in the development of actions, practices and policies that impact them, at all stages of development and implementation. “This should not be a “tick the box” exercise” said Dr Marinetti “but thought through, including for instance procedures such as setting up of structured mechanisms for involvement, presenting child and youth friendly information, and, very importantly, reaching out to those who normally would not be included in such co-creation”.