About two years ago, I was lying on my bed, dreaming of owning a switch to turn off my life. I was fighting a raging depression, the worst and longest episode I had ever faced. One factor that contributed to my descent into darkness was my ordeal to find proper help in Finland.
It was hard to find the right information, let along a professional who spoke fluent English or understood what life as an immigrant looks like.
I was struggling to get out of my house: leaving my bed, taking a shower, and getting dressed seemed daunting tasks. I desperately needed to talk to someone but the English crisis hotline was available only in the afternoon that day. I was alone.
Depression makes you believe you do not matter and your existence is a bother to the world: my experience with seeking mental support in Finland simply affirmed that belief.
My story is everything but unique. Mine has a happy ending because I could (barely) afford private therapy, but many are left to fight alone.
Highest incidence in Europe
Finland has the highest incidence of mental issues in Europe, with 1 every 5 people facing them at some point in their life. Burnout affects even more, over 50% of the workforce experience some kind of burnout symptoms. You read that right, HALF the workforce does experience some form of burnout symptoms.
But this risk is even worse for Finnish residents with foreign background - including second-generation immigrants. They often deal with marginalization, discrimination, and loneliness.
The symbol of this campaign is a hand with an equal sign: share a picture of your own hand and say #IAmSuomiToo
Despite these additional challenges, they access mental health services much less than native Finns. Cultural and language barriers prevent them from receiving support. As you learned in my story, it’s often hard to find the right therapist or to even reach out to a crisis line in English.
Currently, NGOs or volunteer-run support groups take on many of the needs of the multicultural community. As much as this effort is worth our praise and gratitude, their reach is limited.
They do not have the capability and should not have to replace public services. It is not sustainable and it is not fair. Now more than ever we need public service providers to acknowledge these issues and grant services that respond to the needs of the whole community.
A public conversation needed
If we do not address these gaps, inequalities will worsen; if we do not have a public conversation about how those critical services are not designed for part of the population, people with foreign backgrounds will always be left behind. Reforms, national strategies, and improvements in the healthcare sector will not benefit us.
Four weeks ago some volunteers and I got together to demand change.
Today on March 6th, we launch a petition addressed to the Ministry of Health and Social Services asking for concrete actions. We invite all of you to sign and share it with friends, family, colleagues, your networks.
We ask each of you to stand up and show how beautifully diverse Finnish society is by using the hashtag #IAmSuomiToo on social media. Share your story of facing barriers in getting help or let us know why this cause resonates with you.
We want to build a movement for inclusion in Finland and we need everyone’s voice to be part of it.
Today is the day when we come together to make sure no one is left alone and everyone gets the help they deserve when they need it most.