Lithuanian Presidency EU Conference - Mental health: Challenges and possibilities
10–11 October 2013, Vilnius, Lithuania
Addressing the issue of mental health among young people has become a priority for the EU. Eurofound participated again in the Lithuanian Presidency events on 10–11 October by joining the debate at the conference on ‘Mental health: Challenges and possibilities’ in Vilnius, organised in cooperation with the State Mental Health Centre.
Speakers at the conference emphasised the importance of mental health in all policies, and society’s influence on the emergence and development of mental illness. Keeping young people in Europe on the policy agenda, part of the debate centred on children’s and adolescents’ mental health development, and the analysis of addictive disorders.
The 200 participants at the event included mental health experts from around the EU, the candidate countries and the European Free Trade Association. Representatives from the European Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO), plus experts and academics from Lithuania and beyond addressed the conference.
Topics covered in the debate included preventing mental illness in children and adolescents through child-friendly health systems, promoting good mental health and well-being in educational systems, and preventing cycles of violence by addressing both risk and protective factors. A programme is available.
Representing Eurofound at the event were Research Managers from the Living Conditions and Quality of Life Unit, Tadas Leončikas and Anna Ludwinek.
Coinciding with World Mental Health Day, Mr Leončikas presented to the plenary session on 10 October on Mainstreaming mental well-being in policies of all levels (385 KB PDF). After presenting Eurofound survey findings on health and well-being, he spoke about the policy implications for coordinated action in monitoring, prevention and early intervention.
Speaking about early intervention in particular, he highlighted findings from Eurofound’s study on Active inclusion of young people with disabilities or health problems. He argued that joint action and coordination between local authorities, social partners, employment services and NGOs are vital in early intervention measures. In many countries, funding of NGOs plays a role in this as a large part of the service for young people is supplied by these organisations.
Lack of focus
The active inclusion report highlighted a lack of specific focus on young people with disabilities at EU and national policy level. Yet there is evidence that much of the rise in the numbers of young people entering the disability registers is due to mental health problems.
It shows that the services and supports associated with active inclusion include good quality mental health services and social inclusion services to help young people with disabilities or mental health problems enter the labour market.
Moreover, the report suggests that addressing issues such as stigma, prejudice and lack of awareness among mainstream service suppliers, employers, potential fellow employees and society at large is key to enabling effective active inclusion policies for young people with mental health problems.
Another report by Eurofound on Young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) shows that poor physical or mental health, disability, unemployment and inactivity are among the factors particularly associated with being NEET. The report highlights that those who begin to practise active citizenship and volunteering during childhood and adolescence are more likely to have a stable pattern of civic engagement, which enables a sense of connection to others. This also helps to prevent social exclusion as it allows young people to form social networks, build social capital and connect to educational and occupational opportunities.