Montag, Juli 14, 2008

 

mental health

Knowing I would be the fourth speaker I tried to come up with a joke on mental health, but I could not think of any non-offensive one. This says a lot about stereotypes and stigma on mental health.

Anxiety and phobia, post traumatic stress, bipolar disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, Schizophrenia, learning disorders, Suicide, depression, attention deficit disorder, eating disorders, addictions – all on the rise and shocking high figures for youth in Europe.

The European Youth forum is an umbrella organisation of almost 100 National Youth Councils and International Non-Governmental Youth Organisations. Together with our members we are trying to be advocates for the well being of young people.

People with mental disorders are or can be particularly vulnerable to abuse and violations of their rights. Legislation should protect vulnerable citizens and should reflect that society cares for its people. Ironically in some countries, especially those where legislation has not been updated for many years, mental health legislation has resulted in violations rather then in promotion of human rights. They are often directed to protect members of the public from dangerous patients and causing more isolation and stigmatisation. Youth participation is vital for inclusion of youth and for integration into society.

Mental health problems can often arise in response to stress. Several elements of a young persons life - such as living away from home for the first time, exams, assessments, and financial worries - can cause high levels of stress, which can trigger mental health problems. With the debt burden set to rocket as a result of student loans, internships and precarious work contracts, this issue will become an increasingly important one for young people. Policy makers must make sure that the national implementation of Flexicurity does not lead to more stress factors for workers.

Additionally unfair denial of employment opportunities, discrimination in access to services, health insurance and housing policies, early school leaving or under achieving are both risk factors for and consequences of mental health problems.

Patient’s rights must include also for minors equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and individual autonomy, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the principle of the least restrictive environment, the right to information and participation. Discrimination is often also linked to excluding persons with mental disorders from many aspects of citizenship such as voting, driving, owning and using property, having rights to sexual reproduction and marriage, gaining access to the courts. Such restrictions must carefully be assessed as often they are based on improper or unnecessary barriers or burdens. Youth organisations working with young people, involving them and letting them gain competences and confidence are key actors for boosting active citizenship.

There is also a significant amount of indirect discrimination or lack of protection, let me give you an example: a countries labour laws may protect a person against indiscriminate dismissal, but there is no compulsion to temporarily move a person to a less stressful position, should they require some respite to recover from a relapse of their mental condition. The result may be that the person makes mistakes or fails to complete the work and is therefore dismissed on the basis of incompetence an inability to carry out allocated functions. This can happen even easier to young people who are more likely to work under precarious work conditions anyways.

A good and sustainable health and care system must understand people needs. This is paramount for young people – as wrong or bad treatment will cause vicious circles making an autonomous life impossible. The young person might not be able to finish school, get a job, and get his or her independent living. The European Unions education and training strategy is talking about key competences such as learning to learn – such key competences can only be achieved for all Europeans if there is enough support also to civic initiatives and youth organisations. Organisations that are based on peer learning and that focus on the learner.

Mental health disorders interfere with the way they think, feel, and act. Mental health influences the ways individuals look at themselves, their lives, and others in their lives. Therefore support to the whole family is integral. Systems of care must be developed on the premise that the mental health needs of children, adolescents, and their families can be met within their home, school, and community environments.

People who are discriminated against are more prone to substance abuse, eating disorders, homelessness, depression and suicide. Members of minorities groups such as for example LGBT students are subject to chronic and acute stress such as bullying in school, related to their stigmatised social position. Isolation and invisibility of their obstacles can easily lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts. All schools must have anti-bullying and harassment policies, with explicitly defined steps and measures to take in case of bullying, not only for LGBT students.

The family is the place where children should learn to be happy and healthy so it's scandalous that at the moment most systems are completely failing families where a parent has a serious mental illness. Traumatic hospital visits for children, lack of support schemes and stigmatisation cause also mental health problems also for children.

The right to mental health is something that we all have and something that should be looked after. People who have mental health issues should not feel that they are unable to disclose these facts about their life because of fear of being labelled. It must be about respect and dignity and about receiving the services we deserve, desire and choose

A role of civil society is to provide the necessary info, resources and skills to enable youth to reach out, to get help for themselves and to know how they can support and give help to their friends who may be struggling with stress, mental health issues, self-harming behaviours or suicidal thoughts. We must eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness by reframing perceptions, disregarding stereotypes and equipping youth with the knowledge and information they need to affect change. Youth will only be empowered and confident to challenge such preconceptions if they are taken serious.

Recommendations:

¸ Multi stakeholder approach for policy development, Multidisciplinary approach for the implementation
¸ Cross sector work to address different challenges in different policy fields
¸ Empowerment of young people though life long and life wide learning opportunities
¸ Raise the awareness that the EU can not reach its growth and jobs objectives without adequately addressing mental health
¸ The role of youth organisations: speak the same language, hang out at the same places and work with peer support schemes
¸ Actively encourage and resource peer support systems
¸ Increase public awareness about the importance of protecting and nurturing the mental health of young people
¸ Foster recognition that many children have mental health problems that are real, painful, and sometimes severe
¸ Encourage caregivers to seek early, appropriate treatment and services
Invest more in research on mental health of young people

Comments:
Nice to see you are alive!

Best Wishes from Portugal

Pedro Henrique Aparício
 
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