Tue. Oct 4th, 2022
Brussels, 13 September 2022

Spending on education and culture must be given an urgent boost to mitigate the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of children and young people.

In a resolution adopted on Tuesday by 522 votes to 12, with 79 abstentions, MEPs say that the overall state of childrens’ and young people’s mental health and well-being has significantly worsened during the pandemic. They point to a ‘pandemic scar’ — the pandemic’s lasting effect on intellectual, physical, emotional and mental health of young people who, due to closures of education, care, youth and sports facilities, were robbed of a chance to participate in activities “essential for their overall development”.

To alleviate this damage, MEPs ask for a boost in the EU’s average spending on education and training beyond the current 5% of GDP and urge every EU member state to spend 10% of the EU’s recovery and resilience funds on education and 2% on the cultural and creative sector.

Calling for a holistic EU approach to dealing with the mental health problems of young people, MEPs want investment in improving mental health awareness and services in schools, to enable children and young people to access psychological help.

To break the silence and social stigma surrounding mental health issues, the Commission should designate a European Year of Mental Health and together with member states launch a campaign to raise awareness of mental health in educational and vocational institutions.

Quote

“10 to 20% of children and young people faced mental health problems before the pandemic. After the pandemic this figure has risen to 20 to 25%. The rate of self harm among young people has also increased dramatically. Dealing with this is now an urgent task for all policy makers, and this report can be the first step we make for young people in Europe,” Hannes Heide (S&D, AT), the rapporteur, said in a debate ahead of the plenary vote.

“Let us draw the lessons from this pandemic and make COVID-19 a stimulus for the necessary investments in education,” he said, while calling to use the “European Year of Youth to show young people that they are the future of Europe.”.

Included in the report approved by MEPs were a number of recommendations:

– member states including psychological first aid and stigma-free mandatory mental health education in curricula, so teachers and trainers can respond to young people who experience mental health issues;

– building up national action plans to tackle mental health challenges among children and young people, with special regard to the most disadvantaged groups;

– ensuring proper funding and fair working conditions for young authors, performers, artists and all other cultural workers, including those working on social media, who were adversely affected by the pandemic;

– developing sports infrastructure and comprehensive increases to the amount of physical education and extracurricular physical activities provided for in schools, including activities for children and young people with disabilities;

– supporting small local cultural initiatives, sports clubs, youth organisations to carry out the leisure, non-formal and informal learning activities that play an essential role in the development and well-being of young people and their families;

– increase the funding and promote the opportunities offered by Erasmus+, Creative Europe and the European Solidarity Corps, to enhance mobility experiences of learners and best practice exchanges among teachers;

– give young people more voice in decision-making, so that they can express their needs and participate in policy implementation.

Background

According to MEPs, 64% of young people in the 18-34 age group were at risk of depression in spring 2021. UNICEF reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.

Source – EU Parliament