BM85: Resolution on mental health services in the Faroe Islands
The European Students Union strongly encourages the Faroese government to preserve free mental health services for people between the ages of 15-35 and all students enrolled in a Faroese Higher Education Institution (HEI).
In 2020 the Faroe Islands introduced a pilot mental health service under the title “Free mental health services for people between the ages 15-35”. The argument behind this initiative was that mental health services should not come at the expense of the individual, especially for younger people and students who are financially strained. The pilot period lasted for three years and expired on the 31st of October 2023.
Recent reports from Heilsutrygd, the public institution behind the pilot initiative, show a functioning system and a high demand for mental health services. Additionally, the report showed a largely even age distribution of recipients of the initiative with the age group 30-35 having the highest demand for mental health services. Moreover, in addition to being the group with the highest demand, the age group 30-35 is made up of people with children, loans, and expenses in a time of soaring prices and a stressed housing market, especially in Tórshavn. Furthermore, recent reports from Fólkaheilsuráðnum, The Faroese Health Authority, show that 58% of people from 18-34 are financially strained.
Recognizing the need for such a system, as demonstrated by the high demand, the Faroese Ministry of Health proposed to introduce the pilot health service as a permanent initiative in 2024. However, the 2024 permanent system proposal offers mental health services between ages 15-25. The European Students’ Union (ESU) together with Meginfelag Føroyskra Studenta (MFS) applaud the permanent proposal, but at the same time, we are collectively puzzled and concerned about the exclusion of individuals aged 25-35.
The decision to exclude this group from the 2024 proposal is not grounded in the overall feedback and results that were gathered from the pilot initiative and the demography in higher education in the Faroe Islands. The results show a functioning system and a high demand for mental health services, with people having several sequential consultations. The fact that there is a notable demand for mental health services should not be the reason to exclude and limit the number of viable recipients. On the contrary, it rather highlights the need to maintain the already functioning system in a time with increasing mental health challenges among younger people. Furthermore, higher education in the Faroe Islands is characterized by an older population, with the majority of the students enrolled in Faroese HEIs being older than 25. Latest data from the University of the Faroe Islands state that 77,5% of students are 25+. As a result, the vast majority of students in Faroese HEIs are excluded from the 2024 permanent system.
Moreover, offering free mental health services for those in need has a positive impact on the economy. Partly due to being able to help those in need from an earlier stage to reduce the number of people being potentially hospitalized. Furthermore, it limits the number of people leaving the labor market. In 2008, England started offering free access to mental health services and has since then improved these services over the last 15 years. Studies over this period in England show that free access to mental health services has had an overall positive impact on the economy.
Finally, MFS urges that all students enrolled in Faroese HEIs must be included in the mental health service, underlining that being a student has no age limit. The concept of life-long learning should be emphasized here. The Commission of the European Communities statement ”Adult learning: It is never too late to learn” echoes the message that life-long learning is important for competitiveness and employability, as well as the enhancement of social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development.
With all this in mind, cutting down and excluding this age group from mental health services without an alternative plan to improve the situation is a cause of concern for ESU. Therefore, ESU urges the Faroese government to:
- Preserve free mental health services for people between the ages of 15-35
- To include all students enrolled in Faroese HEIs in the mental health service
- Weigh mental and physical health equally
- Work towards inclusion of all age groups
- Consult Heilsutrygd and Sinnisbati on the 2024 proposal
Seconders: DSF, fzs, HÖOK, FEF, ISO, LIS, LSA, NSO, SAMOK, UAS