Coping, Studying, Influencing, General

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In connection with the municipal elections, we will publish a series of blogs in which the political student organizations of the parliamentary parties will take a stand on mental health policy. At Nyyti, we want to increase the social debate on mental health and thus increase our turnout. You can find out about Nyyti’s municipal election goals here. You can also find a more detailed election schedule on the page.

My acquaintance posted on Instagram this week that they finally got into muchawaited psychotherapy. While I was over the moon for them, at the same time I was sad because neither psychotherapy nor any other form of treatment should be muchawaited. The need for mental health help is as acute as with physical problems, and therefore treatment should be available as quickly as possible. Our mental health services, however, are under-resourced. My Instagram acquaintance isn’t the only one who has found themselves in a situation like this. Too many times, I have stood and watched people in need of help have to wait and wait. Too often were not getting the right treatment until we are so ill that we have to be admitted to a hospital. 

There has been talk about the mental health of young people now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote studies and work have separated us from each other. We are stuck in our own apartments, feeling lonely. The problems that have been bubbling under for a long time have materialized with many people, and on the other hand, existing mental health problems have worsened. The situation is difficult. Young people are in desperate need of mental support, but the availability of support is poor. 

Mental health is regarded as something thats nice to have, and its treatment is not as acute as for an eye inflammation or a broken arm. It feels as if resources are allocated proportionally more towards the treatment of physical health, which is completely absurd. 

Every fifth Finn suffers from mental health problems, and a significant share of the problems start in childhood or youth. Therefore, the prevention of mental health problems in children and young people and the treatment of existing disorders is essential. 

Even if we are aware of these problems, the situation is poor. Currently, only half of the people suffering from mental health problems receive the help they need. This leads to more than just the worsening of mental health problems. While the collapse of mental health is a personal disaster, it’s also a social problem. Over half of disability payments are made due to mental health problems. Likewise, a significant number of people receiving sickness benefits are suffering from mental health disorders. Mental health disorders cost Finland a total of 11 billion euros every year. 

What could we do to prevent these problems? Mental health is not a black-and-white matter, and high-quality mental health services are not secured with one decision. Nevertheless, one significant improvement would be the therapy guarantee that’s been the topic of discussion for years now. It would guarantee everyone faster access to psychotherapy or another form of psychosocial treatment after their first visit to a medical centre. The total cost of the therapy guarantee would be 35 million euros. This price tag is small compared to the current expenses caused by mental health disorders. Additionally, the therapy guarantee would be itself back when, for instance, the costs of sickness leaves and the use of sickness benefits would decrease. Low-threshold mental health services would be more concrete than ever before if the therapy guarantee were to materialize. 

The government, however, doesn’t want to implement the therapy guarantee as an independent package but as part of a wider treatment guarantee, according to which non-urgent patients would have access to treatment within one week from the assessment for a need for care. The treatment guarantee does not include a more specific definition of the mental health treatments included in the basic services. This matter is progressing slowly, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government seems to have forgotten that right now, quick action for guaranteeing the better availability of mental health services is of utmost importance. 

The mental health of children and young people also strongly correlates with their family life. When a parent is not observing and supporting their child, the risk, for example, for the onset of depression is greater. On the other hand, parents’ mental health problems are also reflected in their children. Families need support from society in order to prevent situations where the mental health of a child or a parent collapsesMunicipalities should be better able to recognize the need for help in families and allocate resources for family work in a preventive manner. That way, last resorts such as taking children into custody and inpatient care would be needed significantly less frequently. 

The stigma of mental health is still tremendous. Even if the afore-mentioned help were available, mental health problems are so taboo that many people won’t seek treatment. The culture of coping is instilled in me and in many others. “We just have to keep going” is a toxic attitude. In reality, we are not machines created just to perform. Our minds need care and maintenance. Letting go of stigma is partly up to us individuals. Piece by piece, we are building a healthier society where mental health is seen as at least as important as physical health. Depression, panic attacks, or any other mental illness may in the near future be something that we can talk about as openly as diabetes or hypothyroidism. 

On the other hand, taboos are broken by society, not just us individuals. When, for example, our schools start to emphasize the significance of mental health as a pillar of our wellbeing on par with a healthy diet or daily exercise, our future generation will be better prepared to seek help. How much more easily would we be able to see that we were not mentally well if, since elementary school, we had a similar understanding of our mental health as our physical health? 

Currently, there is a lot of work to be done for better mental wellbeing in Finland. I have known people who our society has allowed to fall. There have been attempts to create a better safety net, but it still fails too often. Therefore, I demand efforts to genuinely promote our mental health, to make a safety net so strong that no one is left without help. No one should have to wait when the mind is not well. Our mental health isn’t cheap. It’s our most valuable possession. 

Ami Rinta-Valkama


Kirjoittaja toimii KD Nuorten 1. varapuheenjohtajana ja on kuntavaaliehdokkaana Tampereella. 

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