Availability and accessibility of primary mental health services for adolescents: an overview of national recommendations and services in EU

European Journal of Public Health | December 2020
Authors: Pierre-André Michaud, Annemieke Visser, Johanna P M Vervoort, Paul Kocken, Sijmen A Reijneveld, Danielle E M C Jansen

Background: Mental health problems in adolescence can profoundly jeopardize adolescent current and future health and functioning. We aimed to describe existing recommendations and services regarding the delivery of primary mental health care for adolescents in 31 European countries.

Methods: Data on the availability and accessibility of primary mental health services were collected, as part of the Horizon 2020-funded project Models of Child Health Appraised. One expert from each country answered a closed items questionnaire during years 2017–18.

Results: All 31 participating countries had some policy or recommendations regarding the availability and accessibility of primary mental health services for adolescents, but their focus and implementation varied largely between and within countries. Only half of the participating countries had recommendations on screening adolescents for mental health issues and burdens. Merely a quarter of the countries had ambulatory facilities targeting specifically adolescents throughout the whole country. Just over half had some kind of suicide prevention programs. Same-day access to primary care in case of -health emergencies was possible in 21 countries, but often not throughout the whole country. Nineteen countries had strategies securing accessible mental health care for vulnerable adolescents.

Overall, around half of European countries had strategies securing access to various primary mental health care for adolescents. They frequently did not guarantee care over the whole country and often tackled a limited number of situations. EU countries should widen the range of policies and recommendations governing the delivery of mental health care to adolescents and monitor their implementation.