Belgium’s Superior Health Council, the scientific advisory body for the Federal Public Health Service, wants free coronavirus tests for young people so that they can start participating in social life again.
In a report about the mental well-being of young people during the coronavirus crisis made up by the Council, published on Wednesday, being able to have a social life is very important for younger generations.
“The focus of new measures and relaxations should be on young people,” said psychiatry professor Inez Germeys of the Council, adding that young people have been a vulnerable and somewhat forgotten group in recent times.
Now, it is high time to repair the damage done to young people, according to the report.
“One of the recommendations we have is that young people should be given the freedom to interact again as soon as possible and as much as possible,” Germeys said.
“We are already very happy that the vaccination campaign among young people is progressing so well, but as long as they are not fully vaccinated, they should have access to free PCR tests so they can participate in social activities,” she added.
Additionally, it is important to recognise that young people are having a hard time, and that they are making special efforts, not for themselves but for society, the report states.
“They deserve positive feedback on what their efforts are achieving,” it added.
On top of that, this crisis has put “the already existing crisis in mental health under a magnifying glass,” and made extra clear that mental health should be given a higher priority. This is not only the case for youth, but for society in general.
There is a need for structural investment and a strategic strengthening of the various forms of counselling, the report concluded.
“A better-developed monitoring system, such as a national mental health barometer, is essential, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and young people.”
Additionally, it is very important to monitor suicides better so that these data can be included in public health policy, as that is the only way to accurately evaluate the situation, and develop more effective strategies for early diagnosis and intervention.
According to the Council, the pandemic could be a learning opportunity for schools, an opportunity to pay more attention to teaching social-emotional skills and teaching young people to care for themselves and others.
“Ideally, mental well-being should be integrated into the whole learning process.”