The United Nations has ranked Finland as one of the happiest countries on earth for the last eight years. Praised around the world for its low inequality, high employment rate, successful education system and overall high living standards, it is hard to believe that poor mental health is something that plagues the small Nordic country. Here is some information about mental health in Finland.
Mental Health in Finland
Mental illness affects roughly one in every five Finnish people. This is higher than the European average and has a particular effect on the country’s younger population. Due to the country’s global reputation as the happiest country on earth, young people feel less inclined to speak up about their struggles, some even feel that their struggles are invalid due to where they live.
Mental health in Finland is not a new issue. The country dealt with dramatically high suicide rates in the 80s and 90s. This led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Project in 1986. The Project focused on preventing suicide by strengthening mental health services throughout the country, educating the media on reporting suicides and improving public conversation on mental health. The project was extremely successful as the country’s suicide rates decreased by 50% since 1990.
Although the country’s approach to mental health improved over the last four decades, people in Finland continue to suffer. Fear of stigmatization regarding mental health is increasing as others continue to paint the country as the land of no worries. Officials recognize this growing issue and have proposed a new Suicide Prevention Plan for 2020-2030. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare partnered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to create a list of objectives for the coming decade. Here is a list of its objectives.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s List of Objectives
- Raising Awareness: The Finnish government aims to raise awareness about mental health and improve public dialogue by training community members to break down prejudices and provide suicide prevention education to the general public. Trained community members would include teachers, police officers, social workers, school counselors, youth workers, pastors and more.
- Reduced Accessibility to Means of Suicide: This objective includes improved planning of infrastructure including buildings, bridges and railways to include suicide preventative architecture. This objective also focuses on creating regulation for the storage of toxic substances, prescription drugs and firearms.
- Early Intervention: The Finnish government has put particular emphasis on the importance of addressing mental health during the early stages. This objective focuses on improving telephone helplines to be more inclusive. It also will create online help-centers and offer better educational support to those experiencing non-emergency effects of mental illness.
- Inclusivity for High-Risk Groups: This objective aims to create suicide prevention programs that are specific to high-risk groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, those living in poverty, asylum seekers, indigenous people, those suffering from substance abuse and victims of violence. The goal is to make individuals feel heard instead of creating blanketed campaigns that do not address any specific issues.
- Improved care options. This objective focuses on Finland’s healthcare system and the care options given to those suffering from mental illness. This includes advancements in online outreach programs and training for healthcare providers to identify signs of mental illness. Furthermore, it establishes emergency care for those at risk of committing suicide and assistance for families affected by suicide.
Mental health in Finland is a serious issue. It cannot afford to be brushed off by the reputation of the happiest country on earth. The Finnish Government does not wish to hide the country’s problems behind this title. It would rather live up to it. Through this new program, the people of Finland anticipate a more inclusive future and a public conversation that embraces the ups and downs of mental health instead of ignoring them.
– Kendall Couture