7.5 Mental health
On this page
On this page
National mental health strategy
In 2016, the Swedish government presented a national mental health strategy for2016-2020 (Regeringens strategi inom området psykisk ohälsa 2016-2020). The strategy has formed the basis for the government’s work in the area of mental health.
In 2020, the Government has commissioned the Public Health Agency and the National Board of Health and Welfare to provide a basis for a new national strategy in the area of mental health and suicide prevention. The assignment must be reported to the Government no later than 1 September 2023, through a comprehensive proposal for a strategy with goals, priorities and indicators for follow-up.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) is responsible for coordinating the work of many different stakeholders, such as governmental agencies, regions and municipalities. The agency is also responsible for monitoring, compiling, analysing and disseminating knowledge to support mental health promotion and preventive mental health work.
In 2020, the Government commissioned the Swedish National Agency for Medical and Social Evaluation (SBU) to evaluate efforts to promote mental health and prevent mental illness and suicide among children and young people. Among other things, the SBU will review the scientific basis for what is required of structured manual-based interventions (programmes) to promote mental health and prevent mental illness and suicide among children and young people aged 2-18. The assignment was finalised in October 2022 when the report (Främjande av psykiskt välbefinnande hos barn och ungdomar) was published.
Over the past 30 years the suicide rate (the number of individuals per 100,000 inhabitants who have committed suicide) in Sweden has reduced by around 60%. In 1990, the number was 28.2 compared to 17.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021. Internationally, Sweden’s suicide rate is around the EU average. This positive trend does not, however, apply to young people. Among people under the age of 20, the level has remained unchanged. And among 20–29-year-olds, suicides have been increasing by approximately 1.8 percent per year during the period 2006–2020.
Among young women, the rate of suicide attempts has risen. In all age groups almost everywhere in the world, more men than women take their own lives. In Sweden more than twice as many men as women commit suicide. Other over-represented groups in Sweden are LGBT and those born abroad (Public Health Agency of Sweden, 2016).
In 2008, the Swedish Parliament decided on a National Action Plan for Suicide Prevention (ett nationellt handlingsprogram för suicidprevention). The Action Plan contains nine strategic areas of action for reducing the number of suicides. Since 2015, the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) has been assigned by the government to coordinate efforts within the nine areas of the Action Plan on a national level. The agency is responsible for:
- developing the coordination and cooperation between relevant agencies and stakeholders working with suicide prevention on a national level
- developing knowledge-building, knowledge compilation, dissemination of knowledge and guidance to relevant stakeholders
The Public Health Agency develops and disseminates knowledge about suicide and suicide prevention, based on the needs of different target groups. This may include summarising research and presenting it in a way that is adapted to different target groups, such as in factsheets, and spreading it through different channels e.g. on the web, in social media, at conferences and seminars. Knowledge support focuses on population-based suicide prevention, i.e. measures mainly carried out outside the health care sector. More information is provided at suicidprevention.se.
The Public Health Agency is also responsible for monitoring and following up suicide prevention work. The latest report is from 2020 (Psykisk hälsa och suicidprevention Lägesrapporten 2020). Like in the area of mental health, suicide prevention is a collaborative effort and the agency cooperates with a number of other government agencies, CSOs and researchers within the field to reduce the number of suicides in Sweden.
Improving of young people’s health conditions is a priority area within Swedish youth policy, and many initiatives have been taken, in order improve the mental health of young people. Even though not all initiatives targets young people specifically, young people are a priority group.
The Government and the Swedish Association of local authorities and regions (Sveriges kommuner och regioner, SKR) has since 2016 reached agreements within the area of mental health. In 2021, the Government has set aside SEK 1.7 billion for SKR's work with mental health and suicide prevention. One goal of the agreement is to improve and coordinate efforts for children's and young people's mental health. Continued investments are made in, among other things, suicide prevention, care and support, patient and user participation, people with comorbidity and psychiatric trauma care.
The agreement for 2021–2022 will be based on three overall purposes. It aims to:
- support continued development work based on the local and regional action plans developed in accordance with the 2016–2018 agreements
- contribute to better conditions for regions and municipalities to work on the basis of the best available knowledge
- initiate or develop special forms of care and effective target group-adapted initiatives to prevent mental illness and increase the availability and quality of care for those who have already been affected.
A study of mental health from the young people´s perspective
The Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) was assigned in 2021 for studying how young people experience and define mentals health issues. The study is conducted together with the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) and will be published in June 2023. Young people between 13 and 25 years of age are asked to share their experiences and thoughts on wellbeing and other mental health issues, as well as coping strategies and their needs for support and care.
Initiatives for young people not in education, employment or training
Mental illness is one of the identified risk factors for a young person to neither work nor study. The Agency for Youth and Civil Society (Myndigheten för ungdoms- och civilsamhällesfrågor) was in 2016 assigned for developing arrangements and disseminating knowledge on how social support to young people with mental health problems and who are not in education, employment or training can be organised and developed in collaboration between different actors.
According to the final report from 2018 (Kunskapsspridning avseende unga med psykisk ohälsa som varken arbetar eller studerar), there were a few on-going activities that showed good results, while opportunities for peer learning and evaluations were lacking. This is partly due to the fact that the support activities were project-financed in the short term and that the local actors did not have access to resources that were needed. Therefore, a continued focus on mental health is required among young people who are neither working nor studying.