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Mental health work is based on the Health Care Act and the Mental Health Act. According to legislation, municipalities must provide mental health services and their quality and availability must be adapted to needs. The role and duties of municipalities regarding health services may change in the future when the structure of health and social services is reformed. (For more information, see: Youth Wiki/Finland: 7.8 Current Debates and Reforms)
The Health Care Act sets the statutory care guarantee, which includes maximum limits for waiting times. As regards mental health services for children and young people, an assessment of the need for treatment must commence within three weeks of hospital or other specialised medical care unit receiving a physician’s referral. In situations where the assessment of the need for treatment requires consultation with a specialist, the assessment and any required tests must be carried out within six weeks. According to the Act, any treatment of a person who is under the age of 23 year old and is deemed necessary on the basis of the assessment of the need for treatment must begin within three months from when the need for treatment was ascertained, taking into consideration the urgency of the case, unless otherwise required on medical, therapeutic or other comparable grounds.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for planning, coordinating and monitoring national mental health work. The goal is to strengthen the mental health and to reduce factors which undermine it. Additionally, the strategy for social and health policy of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health emphasise the reform of the Mental Health Act as well. Other objectives of the Ministry are improving the availability of mental health and services for substance users, continuing to implement the development plan on mental health and services for substance abusers and instilling practices concerning depression prevention and preventing work incapacity due to depression.
In 2018, the steering group was appointed to prepare the national strategy for mental health (2019–2030). According to the Government programme, the Government prepares a mental health strategy with a focus on mental health as a resource. The aim of the strategy is to “secure people’s mental health rights and mental health services, incorporating them into existing structures”. The forthcoming national strategy will include a strategy for preventing suicides. The legislation on mental health and substance abuse services will reformed at the same time. In addition, the Finnish Mental Health Association has established the national centre for preventing suicide.
For more information:
Finnish Mental Health Society (in Finnish)
‘Mitä kuuluu’ – What’s Up?' (In Finnish
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (in Finnish)
Promoting the mental health of young people is an important part of youth policy. As mentioned above (see: 7.2), one of the youth work centres of expertise, a consortium which consists of the Finnish Mental Health association, EHYT Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention and Youth Mental Health Association YEESI, focuses on these issues. The consortium unites the organisations’ expertise and knowledge in mental health work and substance abuse prevention. It aims to increase national expertise in the field of mental health promotion and preventive work. The consortium offers education to youth workers, produces material for professionals and emphasises a resource-oriented approach. One of its goals is to strengthen young people’s participation in the promotion of mental well-being as well. For example, YEESI describes on its website that “the members of the organisation have an opportunity to enhance their generation’s mental well-being”. For more information, see: 7.4 Healthy lifestyles and healthy nutrition
As mentioned above, municipalities are primarily responsible for organising health services and these services should cover mental health as well as physical health. Physical examinations in school and school health-care are not limited to only checking a young person’s physical health. An examination by a child or youth psychiatrist to determine young people’s mental health status must be made available if necessary. For example, a young person has the right to discuss their life situation with a psychologist seven days at latest after he or she has requested the meeting. If the issue is urgent, the meeting must be organised on the same or following day. The statutory care guarantee regulates maximum waiting times in public health-care.
Public health-care services provide the website called mentalhub.fi for young people facing mental problems. The website enables self-evaluation and lists places where young people can get help. However, the website highlights that self-evaluation is suggestive only and cannot replace a physician’s evaluation. As mentioned, municipalities are primarily responsible for organising services, including 24-hour social service in urgent crises. Implementation may vary: in Helsinki, this can be counselling over the phone or 1-5 meetings. A psychiatric emergency service is available for all individuals over 16-year-olds.
Besides these statutory services, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is financing several initiatives under the key project Health and well-being will be fostered and inequalities reduced. For example, the Ministry and the Institute for Health and Welfare in cooperation are financing a project, which aims at increasing basic health care professionals’ knowledge and competences to prevent suicides. Also, the Finnish Mental Health Association has been supported financially. The Finnish Mental Health Association offers training and education in order to promote mental health and life management skills among young people and it has developed training modules and methods for promoting mental health in youth work. The Association sees that supporting adults’ mental health skills strengthens their ability to support young people.
The Finnish Mental Health Association organises intensive courses and peer support groups for young people and young adults who are in need of support. Groups are tailored according to young people’s needs: there are different groups for young people whose family members have a drinking problem, who have experienced relatives’ or friends’ suicide or who need support in their transition to working life, etc. A crisis line is available in urgent situations. In Helsinki, Kuopio and Seinäjoki there are SOS crisis centres, which offer conversational therapy meetings without a physician’s referral and are free-of-charge.
The Finnish Red Cross provides emergency youth shelters for young people who are between the age of 12 and 21. Emergency youth shelters offers conversational therapy or a temporary overnight bed if needed. Young people can also call to seek advice if needed. Online support is available twice a week. The services at the shelter are free of charge for young people. For more information, visit: Support from emergency youth shelter