A Holistic Approach to Mental Health and Youth

Mental health and behavioral problems are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide. However, unfortunately they are not given as much importance as they should by both authorities and also citizens alike in our communities. There is a taboo which prevents sufferers from seeking the help they need, afraid that they will lose their rights, resulting in these people getting caught in the system. Hence due to the pressure put by society and the marginalisation faced, one is not expected to get better.

Therefore, this project took a holistic approach towards Mental Health and youths to create a policy paper which takes into account the various aspects of society, in order to make it more accessible to youths who suffer from mental health problems. 

Unfortunately, it is a fact that currently those who suffer through these problems, are either silent or else they risk exclusion from exercising some of their basic rights like the right to work. Our policy makers are responsible to ensure that the human rights of youths are safeguarded even against employers and businesses, therefore it would be ideal to have a wider framework that would cater for these aspects.

This project was built on the fundamental idea of inclusion and integration of youths between the ages of 13 years to 30 years old suffering from mental health diseases in our society. KNŻ has always been at the forefront in representing youths and assuring that their rights are always safeguarded, this was no exception as we strive towards a more inclusive society where all youths are given the same opportunities.

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1.1.2 Online Consultation

A online consultation survey was carried out to on the Facebook page of the National Youth Council (KNŻ).  A total of 505 responses were recorded which was a good representative sample of all the youths living in Malta and Gozo. As can be seen below it is easily stated that while the reach was varied, 17-20 year olds were the most predominant responses.  

1.2 Gaps In Current Policy

Two fundamental questions were asked with regards to the policy paper. The first question was if they are in need to talk to a psychologist at a point in their life which the results are shown in Image 2 and the other question was Have you ever visited a psychologist or counsellor? which the results are shown in Image 3

2. Health Services

A substantial improvements are taken as of late with regards with the Mental Health sector in Malta, with the relation of both Mental Health Clinics and Psychiatric unit at Mater Dei.  Nonetheless there is still room for several improvements in the relation of standard care of the mental health field in Malta. The best approach that should be taken is that bringing the mental health services on par to other services that is currently being given to people who live with physical illnesses. 

2.2.3 Mater Dei

Mater Dei is essential in providing health services, it is considered to be the center hub and this should not be any different when it comes to mental services. The essence to ensure that there is more lioasion between departments in the hospital most especially in the case of the maternity. Screening should become a standard procedure after a woman has just given birth due to the possibility of post-natal depression.  

Another important services in the mental health intervention is the 24/7 crisis team. From the survey that was carried out as ween in Image 4 it is resulted that the majority do not know of any crisis or emergency team. As scene in Image 5 those who answered ‘yes’ mentioned various stakeholders causing confusion. 

2.5.2 Mental Health First Aid

The Mental Health First Aid was initiative taken by Richmond Foundation. It is a non-governmental organization, which this is a pioneer in the mental health sector in Malta. This course entrails a lot of information on various mental illnesses, whilst it also equips the person on how to deal with certain crisis. Since it is provided by a non-governmental organization, for the purpose of sustainability of the organization, these are provided at a cost and the marketing spent on these courses in limited. Though the survey which was carried out, it is resulted that half youths who responded didn’t know of this course though Richmond Foundation created a specific one catered for youths.

3. Education

Education should always be at the forefront when it comes to defeating the stigma surrounding mental health and building resilience. The word education is vast and the more innovative one is with their approach, the more effective the outcome it will be.

The community should understand more about mental illness, however, education should target the needs of various groups differently. There is education granted to people who are unaffected by the reality of mental illnesses, which is normally general. In fact, it is important to acknowledge that even those people who know mental illness is, as they live with the reality.

Youths are always at an advantage when it comes to education, as they are more susceptible to search on the internet inform themselves, even through they risk being misinformed. Though Image 88 one can observe that youths are more open to discuss the topic of mental health; whereby 75% of our respondents feel comfortable to speak with either family or peers and a substantial part forming part of the 37% are comfortable to speak with both.

3.1 Mental Health In Education Institutions

The educational institutions are amongst the most easily accessible venues to educate. In fact, these institutions are equipped to teach a variety of subjects and material. Despite this, little importance is given to educate on the importance of well-being, including mental health. It is worrying, factual result that was extracted from our questionnaire stating that 49%  of all respondents where never taught mental health at school, excluding another 38%  who are either not sure planned to them in detail.

3.1.1 Counseling

Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault and his team at UCL found that bullying causes many mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, years later. Another study out of Brown University, which was also presented at American Academy of Paediatrics annual meeting, on the 8th of July 2018, Illustrates that those who were considered bullies where more then twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) 

Counselling has proven to be amongst one of the most effective tools in reaching out to youths experiencing difficult situations in schools. According to Image 10 from our total respondents, 90.7% know about the counsellors present at their institution.

4. Work

Work provides a structured routine to one’s life, whist also giving sense of purpose to the person. Ignoring mental health in the workplace will result in massive losses for the employer, whilst creating hardships for the employees.