The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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9 million people between 15 and 30 years of age in Europe suffer from mental health problems

Semira Abbas Shalan Thursday, 12 May 2022, 16:31 Last update: about 3 years ago

9 million young people between the ages of 15 to 30 in Europe are suffering from mental health problems, according to Mental Health Europe (MHE).

The Office of the Commissioner for the Promotion of Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders presented this data during a conference on the European Mental Health Week.

The World Health Organisations (WHO) estimated that 50% of mental health problems affecting adults start in adolescence, and Malta finds itself in a similar position, it was said.

More than 20 entities in Malta worked alongside the office of the Commissioner to promote European Mental Health Week, fighting for the prevention of mental illness and to offer support to service users.

A video played at the conference remarked that the number of persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years old who suffer from mental health problems has doubled, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders Denis Vella Baldacchino said that mental health awareness week focused on youth and adolescents, as the effects of the pandemic are now surfacing. He said that the problem must be pointed out before it escalates, and prevention is a key tool.

Vella Baldacchino said that while a lot is being done, there needs to be more emphasis on education for children and youth, moving at a faster pace to raise awareness and increase knowledge on the issue.

Director of Dar Kenn Għal Saħħtek Darlene Zerafa spoke about the works being done at the centre, which focuses on the treatment of eating disorders and obesity in Malta.

She said that the highest priority is to involve the patient, as treatment has few successes, if at all, if the patient is not involved. Zerafa said that the centre works with a holistic approach, group and individual therapy as well as family support for the individuals. Zerafa said that the centre focuses on emotional support and fights stigma against mental health illnesses.

Athlete and mental health advocate Stephen Sammut Nurminen spoke about his story as an athlete and how fitness is a tool to help fight mental illness. Sammut Nurminen said that he will continue to take on challenges to raise awareness about mental health, his next one being a 365km run across Sicily.

Head of the Mental Health Department of the University of Malta Josianne Scerri revealed through a study amongst youth aged 13 to 25 years, that males have more difficulty reaching out for help than females. In fact, females have shown a greater initiative for turning to a therapist for help, whilst males have shown a certain resistance to resorting to therapy.

Scerri said reluctance to seek help includes social repercussions such as discrimination or being judged, as well as general anxiety of being scared to open up.

Chairman of Dar Kenn Għal Saħħtek and Clinical Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry in the Ministry of Health Anton Grech spoke about the mental health services on the island, with the aims of improving the capacity of the mental health workforce. Grech spoke about the Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team (CRHT) service, which was launched in January 2022, where it receives referrals from A&E department at Mater Dei Hospital, as well as from Liaison Psychiatry at the hospital. He said that admission to hospitals is to be the very last resort.

Commissioner for the Rights of Children Antoinette Vassallo said that during the pandemic, children were more exposed to mental health illnesses due to the isolation from school. She said that there needs to be more encouragement for children and youths to look for help when needed, as well as for the parents to do so for themselves and their children.

Vassallo spoke about stress and anxiety within youths, and that there needs to be spaces adequate for children and youths in mental health hospitals, along with programmes which involve children in the process.

President Emeritus and Chairperson of the Malta Trust Foundation Marie Louise Coleiro Preca said that the mental health sector is still being stigmatized, and the participation of youths and children remains crucial in the prevention and fight against mental health.

Coleiro Preca said that every individual can be susceptible to mental health problems, which is why there is a need for a national mental health screening, and more resources rather than only infrastructure.

The Office of the Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders said that its mission is to meaningfully empower and actively engage young people in decisions about their mental health, as well as provide targeted mental health support at every stage of an individual's life.

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