The Finnish government announced today the launch of a new plan to address mental disorders among young people.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the reform aims to strengthen access of young people to psychosocial interventions and to establish new methods of early intervention and treatment of the most common mental low-threshold disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders.
The plan, which will be implemented in 2020-2022, is part of the National Mental Health Strategy, which was published on 11 February, when the expert group chaired by Professor Sami Pirkola submitted the strategy to the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Krista Kiuru.
Many young people lack access to care
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health admits that nowadays the service structure for treating mental health disorders among young people is particularly fragmented.
This means that more and more young people, who suffer from mental health disorders, are currently directed to specialised medical care. In contrast, there are scarce opportunities for young people for early treatment of mental health disorders in primary health care. "The basic care of school pupils, in particular, does not materialise," the Ministry says.
Intervention methods based on research evidence exist, but they are not widely used in Finland. New activities would improve this situation, the Government says.
According to estimates, approximately 19,000 young people between 13 and 18 years of age need help due to depression or anxiety disorder every year. About 60% of young people in treatment for a mental health disorder currently receive treatment either in primary health care or specialized medical care.
Implementation in stages
The plan will be implemented in stages. First, methods for treating depression and anxiety symptoms would be introduced in primary health care.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, those methods have already been successfully used at an early stage of mental health disorders among young people, for example in the UK. In the long term, other methods suitable for the treatment of the most common disorders would also be included in primary health care.
Regional projects will be carried out in cooperation with the adolescent psychiatry units of university hospitals. Funding for these projects will be channeled to the regions as part of the central programme funding of the social services and health care system in the future. The regions will agree with the centres of expertise of the university hospitals as to how care of young people should be developed.
The preparations will continue with cooperation agreements in the spring of 2020. Simultaneously, structures will be created for the centres of expertise of the university hospitals for the introduction and support of methods. Pilot programmes to introduce and disseminate the methods to new areas would be launched in autumn of 2020. At the same time, a systematic collection of monitoring and impact data would start.
Health workers will be trained locally
As part of a regional project, primary health care workers would be trained in a locally agreed manner to provide multi-professional, easily accessible and early help in student welfare services in order to reduce mental health disorders in young people.
Alternatively, an employee of an adolescent psychiatry unit could undertake this work in educational institutions. Adolescent psychiatry units would also provide methodological support for the implementation of the interventions in the local services of educational institutions.
“Children and young people should have easy access to low-threshold mental health services in their everyday environment and without the fear of being stigmatized. Help must be available before things get too complicated. Mental health problems are the fastest growing disorder among young people and by improving the availability of care, it will be possible to help solve the problem,” Krista Kiuru, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, emphasizes.