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People need help quickly in times of crisis

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 28.10.2020 11.13 | Published in English on 28.10.2020 at 13.15
Erityisasiantuntija Erja Koponen.

For over six months, the COVID-19 epidemic has put an unprecedented strain on people’s mental coping and wellbeing. It is important that those who feel anxious or worried seek help in these exceptional times. Sometimes it takes courage to seek help, and it is fortunate that many have been brave enough to reach out and ask for help.

On top of the crisis caused by the epidemic, we in Finland have been appalled by the recent data breach at Psychotherapy Centre Vastaamo and the attempts to extort money from the centre’s clients. It is an outrageous crime that undermine our faith in information systems, justice and people’s integrity.

Fortunately, there are many kinds of help available. Crisis helplines are one means of getting help, and they have received significantly more calls than before. The callers have described feelings of anxiety and problems in their relationships.

Mental health and the flexibility of the service system are tested by the epidemic

The COVID-19 epidemic is testing people’s mental wellbeing at home and at work. Working and studying from home, self-isolating and being subject to quarantine under the Communicable Diseases Act are all changing our daily lives and shrinking our scope of activities. Our life-management skills are being challenged, and we are finding it difficult to maintain social relationships.

In these times, it is important that people concerned about their mental health can easily get the help they need when they need it.

Data security threats are a mental health risk

Thousands of people are now experiencing added mental strain and heightened anxiety because they are afraid their private and confidential data are spreading online and they are dreading the possibility of identity theft. There is now an urgent need for concrete instructions on how to act and for venues for where victims can talk about the situation.

Swiftly arranged support now can alleviate problems and prevent them from escalating. Timely help bolsters people’s mental resilience, increasing their flexibility and ability to bounce back. This also has a bearing on how in the future people will be able to trust in information security and in society’s ability to function in times of great distress. 

Good mental health is for everyone and extensive work is being done to ensure it
Finland has in place a National Mental Health Strategy and Programme for Suicide Prevention 2020–2030. It is the result of extensive cooperation and preparation over a long period of time. The starting point is comprehensive consideration of mental health in society and its different sectors and levels. 

The strategy aims to prevent and treat mental disorders efficiently and thereby reduce the associated stigma. Its goal is to ensure that people across Finland have access to timely and sufficient ordinary services and to crisis services. Another goal is to improve communications about services so that everyone knows how and where they can get services when the need arises. 

The strategy includes a programme for suicide prevention. One of its measures is to improve the competence of primary healthcare professionals to assess and manage suicidal behaviour and identify persons at risk of suicide. Another measure is to offer training for media professionals on responsible reporting of suicides.

At the moment, we are accelerating the implementation of the National Mental Health Strategy and Programme for Suicide Prevention through a number of projects that will be launched before the year-end. These projects aim to increase communal wellbeing in residential areas and local everyday settings. They will also reinforce mental health competence in basic municipal services and in workplaces among both employees and management. Efforts will be intensified especially in areas with high reported suicide mortality rates. Early support will be offered to those at risk of suicide.

Most of us need support or therapy to deal with our mental health issues at some point in our lives. That is why it is encouraging that the crises we are now facing help us see more clearly the importance of good mental health. Good mental health is an integral part of the wellbeing of individuals and nations – there should be no stigmas attached to mental health.

Erja Koponen
Senior Specialist
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health