Promoting mental health and well-being in the young
Mental well-being is integral to population health and well-being and contributes to the functioning of individuals, families, communities and the social and economic prosperity of society. Mental and behavioural disorders including addictive behaviour place immense burdens on individuals, families and society; they also increase the risk of co-morbidities and social exclusion. Childhood and adolescence are crucial periods for laying the foundations for healthy development and mental well-being. There is compelling evidence that promotion of mental well-being and prevention interventions, when implemented effectively, can reduce risk factors for mental disorders, enhance protective factors for good mental and physical health and lead to lasting positive effects on a range of educational, social and economic outcomes for young people. Medical and psychological factors, family and social factors (including working conditions) as well as digital environments are some of the different determinants impacting the health and well-being of the young. Resilience to adversity will enhance their ability to cope. There is a need for more robust evidence on resilience factors and on effective interventions promoting mental well-being. Developing these in the young offers the possibility of a positive influence on child development in critical/sensitive periods (childhood, adolescence, transition to young adulthood), thanks to early neuroplasticity.
Proposals should develop population-oriented primary prevention interventions to promote mental well-being of young people and assess them for their effectiveness. The interventions should build on but may go beyond existing state-of-the art knowledge on biological, psychological and social determinants of mental well-being such as societal, cultural, work life, lifestyle, epidemiological, economic and environmental perspectives. The proposals should aim at increasing resilience and mitigating the impact of biological, psychosocial and environmental risk factors. The target group should include young up to 25 years (or a subgroup there of), which is an age limit often used as many severe disorders start in this period.
The research design should be developed by means of a multidisciplinary approach and involve the young themselves and other relevant stakeholders. Innovative approaches in involving the young and gathering their inputs for the design of the intervention should be considered. The interventions should use a holistic approach, taking gender and health inequality aspects into account, in increasing resilience and empowering the young. The interventions to be developed should reflect the diversity of the different countries and regions in Europe and beyond. The research should pay particular attention to ethical issues. The interventions should be assessed for mental well-being outcomes as well as the economic and social benefits and impact on reducing inequalities. These analyses of impact and effectiveness should be presented in quantitative as well as qualitative terms, in a gender disaggregated way where relevant. The results should be disseminated throughout Europe and beyond in order that the evidence generated is fully exploited.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 and 4 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Short or medium term impact, likely during the lifetime of the project:
- Improved mental well-being in the targeted group of young people.
- The innovative interventions will create a strong evidence base for mental well-being promotion programmes in Europe, contributing to greater health equity and improved societal benefits.
Longer term impact, likely beyond the lifetime of the project:
- Improved mental well-being in youth should contribute to reducing school and college/university dropout in the short term, strengthening personal confidence and cognitive function, improving educational efforts and enhancing employability.
- Preventative strategies are established which have a real effect of reducing the occurrence of mental disorders and co-morbidities associated with mental disorders later in life.
The term mental well-being is often used in both policy and academic literature, interchangeably with positive mental health. The WHO has declared mental health to be the 'foundation for well-being and effective functioning for both the individual and the community' and defined it as a state 'which allows individuals to realise their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to their community. World Health Organisation: Promoting Mental Health; Concepts emerging evidence and practice. Summary report, Geneva; World Health Organisation; 2004.
Clarke, A.M., Morreale, S., Field, C.A., Hussein, Y., & Barry, M.M. (2015). What works in enhancing social and emotional skills development during childhood and adolescence? A review of the evidence on the effectiveness of school-based and out-of-school programmes in the UK. A report produced by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research, National University of Ireland Galway
Primary prevention is directed towards preventing the initial occurrence of a disorder (WHO Health Promotion Glossary 1998)