Mental illness accounts for a considerable proportion of the disease burden in Europe. Adolescence and early adulthood are known to be the most vulnerable phases for the development of emotional and psychological problems and mental disorders. Problems young people face range from minor transient problems to severe illnesses. Such problems may have a major impact on the way young people feel and act and they may interfere with their interpersonal relationships, social and family life, academic achievements, and general well-being and quality of life. It is known that for various reasons many adolescents stay without any support when they face psychological problems. Barriers to help seeking include lack of knowledge about mental health and mental disorders, uncertainty, shame, and stigmatization, lack of knowledge about professional help, lack of access to healthcare, etc.. Therefore education, health promotion, prevention and early intervention related to psychological problems in adolescents are of utmost importance.
The ProYouth Initiative
Eating disorders are one example of severe mental disorders that affect mainly young people. Therefore the focus of the ProYouth initiative is the promotion of health in young people aged 15 to 25, specifically related to healthy eating, body satisfaction, and eating disorders. ProYouth uses a stepped care approach integrating health promotion, psychoeducation, prevention, early diagnosis, and timely intervention and thus ultimately appropriate management of mental health problems, especially related to eating disorders. Support is provided via Internet-based interventions and if necessary access to the regular mental healthcare system is facilitated. A specific online platform ("ProYouth Information and Support Portal") is set up for that purpose offering various modules of information and support to young people.
The main objectives of this online system are:
- To provide information and educate about mental health, health promotion, and eating disorders.
- To assist young people in detecting problematic attitudes and risk behaviors early.
- To give tips on what young people can do to help themselves or others.
- To offer peer and professional support via the Internet and thus counteract the development of eating disorders and related problems.
- To facilitate access to the regular health care system (e.g. counseling, treatment) and thus limit the time between occurrence of symptoms and utilization of professional help.
Overall, ProYouth promises to enhance mental healthcare for young people in the countries that joined the initiative. The ProYouth partners collaborate with local and regional authorities, health institutions and educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) to ensure capacity building and a sound anchoring of the ProYouth initiative within the respective region-specific structures. This strategy allows to address a total of approx. 600,000 young people across Europe and ensures the long-term sustainability of the implemented programs.
NEWS: The Internet-based ProYouth portal is now online! Take a look at www.proyouth.eu