Kick start for a better mental health in Europe

Mental health issues in Europe are increasing and they are directly affecting over 80 million people only in the European Union, with an increasing number of children and youth among the affected. In addition, we must take into account children and youth indirectly affected by adult health issues including severe mental and physical illnesses, substance abuse, domestic violence and other issues that reduce the health, safety and security of the minors involved in these circumstances. In particular, because mental health services are overburdened, the needs and safety of young people are often neglected and not met appropriately (European Commission [EC], 2023.). It is, therefore, crucial to advance an urgent call for effective and sustainable interventions to help improve and maintain the mental wellbeing of young people and children in Europe.

This is where the Let’s talk about children (LTC) intervention steps in. The LTC intervention was developed by the Finnish psychiatric doctor Tytti Solantaus in the beginning of the new millennium as part of The Effective Family Programme, which aimed to improve the possibilities of various health professionals to support the children and families of mentally ill people (Solantaus & Toikka, 2006). The LTC intervention promotes positive parenting through guided discourse with the families. The LTC method can be used with families in multiple vulnerable situations, whether it is parents’ mental health issues, substance abuse, physical sickness, or whether the family has other vulnerabilities related to social status, such as being refugee, asylum seeker or for imprisonment of the parent.

The intervention can be applied to multiple service environments within social- and health care, rehabilitation and educational institutions. In Finland the intervention is used throughout the different environments in social- and health care services, early education (kindergarten, preschool) and in primary schools (Kasvun tuki, 2023). LTC provides training and tools for professionals in various settings to support the mental wellbeing of families in vulnerable situations, by recognizing and addressing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the family and of each individual. In Finland, the mental health organization MIELI ry is coordinating the training of the practitioners in different services (Mieli ry. 2023).

Let’s Talk about Children in Europe, is an international collaboration project that aims to bring LTC to seven European countries. The method is implemented in Czech, Finland, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Romania. The project is coordinated by the University of Turku, and Mental Health Europe (MHE) is participating in the project as a dissemination and evaluation expert. The project started on the 1st of February and the first steps are to introduce the method to the local public in national kick-off seminars starting in June 2023. Stay tuned to find out more and follow our project proceedings!