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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 forms the basis for the government’s work in the area of mental health.
The strategy is based on five focus areas which have been identified as the most urgent for strengthening mental health and preventing mental illness. The five priority areas are:
- Prevention and promotion efforts
- Accessible early interventions
- Focus on vulnerable groups
- Participation and rights
- Organisation and leadership
Each focus area includes people of all ages - children, young people, adults and the elderly, as well as girls and boys, men and women. Starting point is that the society's actions need to be understood and conducted on the basis of the overall population, and the individual needs.
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 will be finalised in October 2022.
Over the past 15 years the suicide rate (the number of individuals per 100,000 inhabitants who have committed suicide) in Sweden has reduced by around 20%. Internationally, Sweden’s suicide rate is around the EU average. This positive trend in Sweden does not, however, apply to children and young adults in the 15–24 age group, where suicide has remained at the same level for a long time. 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 responsibile 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 summarizing 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. Our work with 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 responsibe for monitoring and following up suicide prevention work. The latest report is from 2019 (Psykisk hälsa och suicidprevention Lägesrapporten 2019). 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.
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, 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 heath is required among young people who are neither working nor studying. (MUCF 2018: Kunskapsspridning avseende unga med psykisk ohälsa som varken arbetar eller studerar)