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The silent crisis of youth mental health
"How many more young lives will be derailed by mental health issues before we take decisive action?"
Imagine a child growing up in a world that shifts underfoot every day - where yesterday's security no longer exists today. For that child, the threat of mental illness isn't just significant; it's a haunting shadow. The World Health Organisation warns that one in seven young people between 10 and 19 has a mental disorder. It accounts for 13% of all health issues affecting this age group globally.
Young people's mental health in the European Union (EU) is a big concern. Behind the cold statistics lie young lives crushed by depression and anxiety. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for EU youth. Our youth are also inheriting a troubled world, from climate change to COVID-19.
During the pandemic, many children and young people suffered from prolonged isolation and a lack of interactions with teachers and peers. They experienced anxiety, psychological problems and exposure to more stressful home environments, with heavy consequences on their motivation and overall emotional well-being.
However, traditional issues such as burnout and post-graduation pressures also contribute to this problem. Notably, the new age of digitalisation is detrimental to youth. Young people are grappling with feelings of loneliness and societal expectations that they struggle to meet. There is also a stigma surrounding mental health, particularly for the older generation: How many parents and educators are trying to help without the necessary tools? Parents and educators need more resources and knowledge to adequately address the resources available for youth.
How many more young lives will be derailed by mental health issues before we take decisive action?
The EPP Group in the European Parliament recognises the urgent need for intervention and championing initiatives aimed at early detection and comprehensive treatment options. Mental health problems are no different from other health problems.
Support real action, focusing on the needs and priorities of EU countries. Take a variety of different approaches to address these concerns, such as:
Further data is needed
Collect more data to better understand mental health issues and the brain patterns contributing to their development. Data collection should encompass the impact of conventional problems, such as the rise of digitalisation, and learn to mitigate it. Analyse the additional data and implement preventative measures such as early detection.
Improve access to mental healthcare
Access to mental healthcare resources isn’t easy. Some people may struggle to find the right professional for them or are unable to afford the treatment they need if the public health system doesn’t cover it. Resources must become more readily available for the youth to access both within and outside educational institutions, such as the Headspace Centre in Denmark. We need to adapt models such as Headspace to different EU countries and effectively address youth needs. We need to raise awareness and educate adult figures to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health, educate them on early warning signs, and foster discussions between child and parental figures.
Include youth in the mental health debate
Lastly, include young people in mental health discussions as they can offer valuable insights and propose further solutions. Our youth aren't just statistics; they are the keys to solutions. They deserve a seat at the table. For this to be possible, EU countries should devote additional investments and develop new policies to combat youth mental health challenges.
If we confront the rise in youth mental health issues with the urgency and compassion it deserves, the answer to our opening question will be: 'Not one more.'
Note to editors
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 177 Members from all EU Member States
Press Assistant for Public Health Committee. National press, Italian Media
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