A youth delegation was invited to participate at the ESCAP Congress 2022 which took place in Maastricht. Following the congress, Amélie Galladé, a member of the Swiss Youth Delegation, and Matthias Köster, child and adolescent psychiatrist, reflected on the experience. In their dialogue (link below), they are highlighting the importance of involving young people in discussions and policy making in the mental health arena. The results from the recent McKinsey Study on the Generation Z’s perspectives on mental health showed that while a start might have been made, a long way still lies ahead.
Amélie says: “We need education plans for schools to implement systematic prevention and early detection of mental health risks and issues from a young age. Policymakers need to view investment in mental health as a proven measure with an extraordinarily high return of prevention. The resources to improve adolescents’ mental health, as well as the young people’s commitment, already exist, however, they are not distributed effectively. For a real and sustainable improvement of our mental health, resources should be reallocated and political power should be shared with us, the next generation, for a participative and sustainable decision making.”
And Matthias adds: “There is no true co-development without time and resources taken for listening and co-learning, trust-building and really understanding each other – investing time and personal and financial resources mission-oriented for and with the youth is key to making our European communities attractive places to live in.”
A culture needs to be created where young voices are really being listened to which means structures have to be put in place where youth participation becomes an integral part. Amélie states that “As today, political participation as a young person is a privilege you have to afford regarding finance and time resources. This must change!”
Finally, Amélie appeals to all of us to “please take a moment and think of how you can use your privilege responsibly and how you could share some of it with those who are not that lucky. Please consider in what ways you can enable peace, youth participation, and the pursuit of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Our future needs us.”
The Maastricht congress was a valuable first step and Matthias believes “a sense of togetherness and transformational collaborative readiness was co-created” there. Inviting young people and giving them a platform was much appreciated and received a lot of positive feedback from all delegates.
ESCAP is looking forward to continuing this newly established tradition at future meetings and would like to thank the youth delegation as well as the organizers for making this happen.