On the 22nd February, the 26th and final event in the European Commission youth policy dialogue series took place in Brussels. This session focused on mental health, enabling 15 youth participants to engage with European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.
The session was opened by Commissioner Kyriakides, who highlighted the increased threat of psychological stress and poor mental wellbeing caused by recent events such as COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. The subsequent discussion enabled youth to share their personal experiences and perspectives regarding mental health.
Five central themes emerged, under recognition that all European citizens are in some way impacted by mental health. Consideration of differing experiences across both individuals and the life course was therefore stated as central to a comprehensive policy approach. The life-stage transition experienced by youth populations was particularly highlighted, with inclusion of youth in mental health policy development paramount.
The discussion also called for the strengthening of a ‘mental health in all policies approach’, with careful consideration needed of the impact of increasing cost of living on youth populations. Stigma was also highlighted as an area for further work, with awareness campaigns needing to be sensitive to cultural differences.
Finally, participants identified educational facilities as key environments for youth to express their struggles and receive support. Specialised psychological professionals were recognised as essential for providing necessary care, with particular attention needing to be placed on service provision in Ukraine.
Overall, this dialogue demonstrates a clear call by youth for the EU to increase awareness of mental health challenges and address stigma around this topic. Sensitive campaigns and the provision of accessible, appropriate and affordable mental health support must form the basis of future action. These findings will now be used to inform the consultation for the Commission’s Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health.
You can find more information about the European Commission’s work on mental health here.