On the occasion of the AER Spring plenaries, regional policy makers from wider Europe made a point on working together on the topic of youth mental health and improve regional policies in the field.
Health, youth and the future of Europe
The difficulty for young people to relate to others is a growing severe problem across Europe as was identified by AER members on the occasion of the Autumn Plenaries in Izmir. This issue translates into different social problems, such as early school leaving, substance abuse, violence or extremism. “We need transversal approaches. In Catalonia the departments in charge of health, education and youth now work together to address the situation in an efficient way, this needs to be the case at interregional level too” says Marta Vilalta, Chair of the AER Subcommittee on Youth.
This is why the AER Committee 2 on Social Policy & Public Health and Committee 3 on Culture, Education & Youth decided to join forces and use interregional cooperation to improve policies. Mutual learning has proved to be an efficient approach for policy design and implementation, this is why in AER members invest time in good practice exchange. Why reinvent the wheel if we can share knowledge? Mutual learning at policy making level has therefore direct impact for citizens. Interregional cooperation is probably an area where results are most tangible for citizens as the effects of policy learning shape policy making in a direct and constant way. This is why for the future of Europe interregional cooperation and policy learning are so crucial.
” The impacts of youth mental health are dramatic on society at large. However we have proved in Norrbotten that coordinated action in this area produces fantastic results. There is hope! rates of depression have dropped in two test municipality in our region as a direct consequence of our action. We need to share the good news.” insists Agneta Granström, President of the AER Committee on Social Policy & Public Health.
Nothing about us without us!
While the root causes of youth mental health issues are varied, one of the main issues is the need to talk with young people and not about them. “Young people repeatedly insist on being considered as experts on their own reality in everyday life, as a study we carried out shows” explained Johannes Sundelin, County Councillor in Norrbotten (SE). Empowerment, Inclusion, in short taking young people seriously. This means that young people don’t deem it sufficient to be included in the validation phase of policy making but would like to provide inputs which are considered expert content during the whole process. Participation should be made easy, adapted to the reality of young people… and fun. AER has been a long time advocate of youth participation especially via youth councils. The Merabet report published in 2014 provides a series of examples and recommendations on youth participation. However what is at stake is more than the setting up of youth councils as such. This was also highlighted by the 2015 AER conference on participatory approaches in Nordjylland. Young people in Nordjylland were invited to contribute to the region’s priorities via Twitter during the #Nordpol14 event. Important elements are the communication means which are chosen, the way communication is envisaged and the consideration for young people themselves.
On the occasion of the definition of their action plans, AER members chose to create a specific working group on youth mental health which will aim at both sharing experiences and defining a joint European project proposal. During the workshop on youth inclusion & social skills, participants further exchanged and specified the needs they are faced with in their home regions. Currently, the AER team on funding and projects is investigating funding opportunities. A project development meeting will take place on the occasion of the AER General Assembly in Lower Austria. Regions interested in cooperating on this topic can contact AER Coordinator for Policy & Knowledge Transfer Johanna Pacevicius.
|Johannes Sundelin, “The difficulty for young people to relate to others, and why this is a problem for Norrbotten”|
|Angels Piédrola, “Youth inclusion & social skills: experiences from Catalonia”|