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The silent crisis of youth mental health
The World Health Organisation warns that one in seven young people, aged between 10 - 19 years, have a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of all health issues affecting this age group globally. Behind the statistics are young lives crushed by depression and anxiety. Tragically, suicide is now the second leading cause of death of young people in the European Union. How many more young lives will be derailed by mental health issues before we take decisive action?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children and young people suffered from prolonged isolation and a lack of social interactions. They experienced anxiety, psychological problems and exposure to more stressful home environments, with heavy consequences on their overall emotional well-being.
However, traditional issues such as burnout, bullying and post-graduate pressures continue to contribute to weigh down on these young minds. 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 want and are trying to help but feel they lack the necessary tools? Parents and educators need to have access to more resources and knowledge in this area.
As Members of the European Parliament, we recognise the urgent need for intervention and are championing initiatives aimed at early detection and comprehensive treatment options. We support real action, focusing on the needs and priorities of EU countries and propose a variety of different approaches.
Further data is needed
The EU should 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. They can offer valuable insights and propose further solutions. Our young people deserve a seat at the table. We believe that EU countries should update their policies and invest more funding into combatting youth mental health challenges.
We urge the EU to lead the way in tackling rising youth mental health issues with urgency and compassion.
Written by Bartosz ARŁUKOWICZ MEP and Maria WALSH MEP
Note to editors
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 178 Members from all EU Member States
Press Officer for Budget and Structural Policies Working Group, Budgets Committee. National press, Irish Media
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