Mental health and behavioral problems, such as depression, anxiety and drug use, are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide. However, they are not given as much importance as they should be, both by the authorities and citizens alike, in our communities. Although there are services and helplines, these are still unknown to most of the general public, and mental health is nevertheless considered to be taboo. The taboo itself prevents sufferers from seeking the help they need, afraid that they will lose their rights, resulting in these people getting caught in the system. Despite the fact that in the past year mental health in Malta has gained a lot of momentum, with countless stories being shared to the public about the struggles people who suffer from mental illness deal with, the situation does not seem to have improved.
Due to this, the National Youth Council (KNŻ) have taken it upon themselves to ensure that there is a discussion, specifically amongst youths. They have applied for European Erasmus+ funds and they will be conducting a project about Mental Health and Youth for the next seven months, whereby every month they will be having an event discussing a specific sector in society and its relation to mental health. The sectors will vary from education, work and the health services which are the primary sectors that impact youths’ everyday life. They are currently conducting a national survey on the knowledge people, aged between eleven and thirty, have with regards to the Mental Health situation in Malta, in order to be able to cater better their events for the need or rather lack of information there is in each sector.
Youths spend most of their time at school, however, it has become evident that school is equipping them with all the tools to succeed in their academic endeavours but nothing to support them when they come to face the life stressors that there are out there. From the survey KNŻ are conducting, it has become evident that mental health in schools is not a priority, unlike theoretical subjects such as sciences and languages. The education sector should be the main tool used to remove the taboo existing in society. It is through the creation of dialogue that we all learn that mental health does not discriminate and should be treated like any other physical illness. In addition, if there is more awareness of the various disorders, those who display symptoms could notice them earlier and receive help instantly. Therefore, in one of the sessions of this project, KNŻ will be giving out information to youths with regards to the services provided by schools, accompanied by an information session given by experts on various mental health conditions that exist.
Another sector which impacts the life of youths is the employment sector. This is essential to all those who would like to give their contribution and feel part of society, whilst it is also of utmost importance in order to prevent people from ending up in poverty. Therefore, similarly to a person suffering from a physical illness, a person with a mental illness should be entitled leave. It is only then that we will truly have an equalitarian society whereby people suffering from physical and mental illness will be entitled to the same rights, eliminating the discrimination that is present. In the questionnaire, the majority of the participants stated that they are not aware of any benefits existing for people who suffer from mental health. Therefore, in the session concerning the employment sector, those attending will be learning about the rights of mentally ill people and raise awareness on such rights.
Finally, the mental health services will also be discussed including the out-patient services that are offered in most of the localities. In all the events, KNŻ will be having an information session according to the topic at hand and the second part would be specifically used for suggestions for improvement. At the end of the project, they will be collecting all the suggestions brought up throughout out the events to formulate them in a policy paper to be presented to decision makers.
Here at The Yuppie, we admire KNŻ ‘s initiative and fully support them. Raising awareness is important both to end the stigma and to encourage people to reach out. However, sharing a post on Facebook about mental disorders to feel like you have done a good deed for the day is almost useless. Instead, try reaching out to an old friend who has been very quiet or distant, just to check up on them sometimes.
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