Erika Karstinen from the Finnish Yeesi ry is one of the panelists. She talked to us about current factors influencing young people’s mental health and how society could alleviate those pressures.
What are some of the most pressing issues when it comes to factors that impact young people’s mental health?
Erika: “Most recently the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on young people’s mental health, for example by increasing uncertainty and loneliness. We are also seeing an increase in education-related fatigue in ever younger pupils. Currently a significant percentage of students in secondary education and even some pupils in the last years of elementary school are experiencing education-related fatigue. Young people’s mental wellbeing is also being impacted by concern over the state of the world: war, unemployment, and insufficient climate action.”
What kind of societal support or changes would be necessary to alleviate these burdens?
Erika: “It would be important to have mental health impact considerations as a part of the decision making processes at all levels. Decisions on education, income, and social policy will always have an effect – positive or negative – on mental health. Assessing their impacts before implementation would be sensible both from a humane and an economic perspective. For example, it is not reasonable to treat anxiety stemming from financial insecurity as a mental health issue. Instead we should develop social security in a way that supports mental wellbeing.”
Your organisation, Yeesi ry, aims to increase the awareness amongst youth of the importance of taking care of your own mental wellbeing. What does this mean in practice?
Erika: “Our mission is to improve young people’s ability to take care of their own mental health and to help them support the mental wellbeing of others. In practice this means that we offer information, training, workshops, volunteer work opportunities, and a community. It is important to us that all our volunteers can participate in what we do as they are, in a way that suits them, and within the limits of their capacity.”
In Galway you are participating in a panel discussion on best practices in mental health work. What benefits are there to sharing your own experiences with others in the same field?
Erika: “I think that all who work in the mental health and wellbeing field have a common goal. Because of that, there is no reason to be jealous of your own ideas. Instead we should try to share good practices with each other and be open to other people’s ideas. I believe in co-operation and sharing: we do not all need to be reinventing the wheel.”
Finding Balance: A Discussion about Youth and Mental Health, Saturday 16 July, 11am–12.30pm, Harbour Hotel, The Docks, H91 E9PR Galway, Ireland. Free but ticketed event, register via Eventbrite here.
LifeLine and BassAlto at the Galway International Arts Festival, Saturday 16 July, 1.30pm–6.30pm (BassAlto 5.30pm). Claddagh Quay, Galway. Free event. More information on the Galway International Arts Festival website.