PARIS, 24 October (EUROPA PRESS) –
MPs Dolors Montserrat, former Minister of Health, and Estrella Durá called for action on childhood and adolescent mental disorders because of the “terrible” incidence figures in this age group.
This is what they said on Monday during a seminar organized by the Office of the European Parliament in Spain on the European Union’s response to the protection of mental health in the world of digital work, the impact of the pandemic on young people and the need for joint action in care. .
On 5 July the European Parliament adopted a resolution warning that mental health “is not considered a priority in the same way as physical health”. It called on European institutions and EU countries to take action to prevent high levels of mental health problems in the digital world of work in the EU.
The report warns that 64% of young people between 18 and 34 are at risk of depression in 2021 due to a lack of professional, economic and educational prospects, as well as loneliness and social isolation. Lack of investment in mental health is another obstacle, the report notes: less than 3% of total health spending.
Furthermore, another EP text adopted in July calls for the implementation of broader and stronger policies in the field of assistance. An earlier resolution on February 17 also focused on post-pandemic employment and social rehabilitation, particularly for young people, and highlighted that including mental health as a priority in youth goals was a positive step.
Montserrat complained that mental health was a “silent pandemic” that had not been made visible prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when up to 84 million Europeans suffered from a mental health condition before 2020.
“What we have been through and are experiencing is brutal for all European citizens. The pandemic had a triple impact. First of all health, due to the tensions that are generated in health systems. We have not been able to cope with chronic illness, cancer or mental health. It also had an economic and social impact. Then we entered a war on the European continent. And the energy crisis and inflation are suffered by every European, “she said.
He asked that this whole situation “never happen again”. “We need to be prepared not only for a pandemic, but also for health crises. We can never be behind in early cancer detection or mental health care again, “she said.
In this regard, he defended the implementation of the European Health Union: “Europe has only had cross-border health policies. We do not want to take powers away from the Member States, but we do want to coordinate and harmonize public health policies. This is an opportunity that we must seize ”.
Montserrat asked to learn from the management of other diseases to improve health care and mental diagnosis. “What we have achieved with COVID-19 and the European strategy against cancer, we want it for mental health. We need to work with patients, healthcare professionals, academia and Member States to achieve this prevention, starting with the youngest, ”she said.
He insisted on the importance of addressing these mental problems from an early age: “The numbers for young people are terrible in Europe. We need to make this silent pandemic visible. We are starting to have tools, but we have to go further ”.
MENTAL HEALTH: DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
For her part, the socialist MEP Estrella Durá deplored the “great divergence” between European countries “both in terms of investment, protection and type of treatment applied” in terms of mental health. “We should work together within a common European framework. The pandemic didn’t make things easier and war Ukraine made it more necessary, ”he said.
Indeed, Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announced during her State of the Union 2022 address in September a new mental health initiative, to be presented before summer 2023.
For Ms Durá, this plan must be “comprehensive, cross-cutting and focused on prevention”. “For every euro invested in prevention, 18 euros are saved in treatment, or even more. Attention to prevention is extremely important and does not start in hospitals or treatment centers, but in the life-saving contexts in which we live, ”she said.
The MEP said that prevention should be carried out “basically in four areas”. First, education, with the importance of including emotional skills in school curricula and addressing the misuse of networks and access to pornography from an early age.
The European Union can do many things: “If we have bought vaccines and we will probably buy gas together, why not do something for mental health?
For example, he said the number of psychologists per 100,000 people “varies a lot from country to country.” “If we make recommendations to European countries on the relationship between psychologists, we are taking a very important step. One recommendation may seem small, but it’s a lot, “she repeated.
The director of the Institute of Psychiatry and Mental Health of the Gregorio Marañón Hospital, Celso Arango, said that the implementation of measures to improve the mental health of the population “is not a problem of wealth”, but of political will.
“There are countries that devote a larger percentage of their healthcare spending to mental health. The differences are huge. There are countries that have three times more psychiatrists than others. The implementation of investment strategies is also very different in some countries and others, “she noted.
PSYCHIATRIST: YOUNG PEOPLE ARE THE KEY
Mr. Arango underlined the importance of prevention from the earliest stages of life to attack mental health problems at the root: “The most convenient measures for mental health are those adopted during life, childhood and adolescence. . The measured age of diagnosis of mental disorders is 14.5 years. This means that if I want to prevent a phenomenon that starts early, I have to intervene first.
As the psychiatrist pointed out, the segment of the population who “was most affected by the pandemic were young people, especially adolescents”. “Suicide attempts have not increased in general terms, but they have increased among teenagers. They have suffered more than anyone from not being able to communicate with their peers. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, “he said.
Like Estrella Durá, the expert proposed to include aspects related to mental health, such as empathy, in the curricula of primary school students, to “detect that another classmate is going through a bad time”; how to ask for help; or to “respect diversity”.
“The message is that prevention can be done, it pays. The countries that invest the most in mental health are the least short-term countries. When heart attack prevention is performed, lives are saved immediately. This rarely happens in suicide prevention. This is why we must govern and act for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. It is worth it for their sanity and also for the European economy.