Accelerate Estonia’s mission is to turn complex and urgent problems into Estonia’s new competitive advantages. Where today there is confusion, fragmented management, and a problem for the public, there can be something much better, such as a functioning market or more synergy. But only if we can get to the heart of the problem and create the change that would design a systemic opportunity for new business and collaboration models.
In choosing this year’s Accelerate Estonia focus topics in consultation with the public and private sectors and considering Estonia’s major challenges, we found that developments in the mental health field are a critical factor for a small size country like Estonia. It is also a key factor in developing competitive advantages for the economy, which is the main goal of aE.
Mental health problems and the rising costs related to them have been discussed for decades, but the worrying indicators have not been translated into decisive, long-term funded programs that would bring relief and make the necessary services available. Mental health has so far received undeservedly little attention from politicians and society, although mental well-being has a huge impact on our daily functioning, well-being, and performance.
This means that the ability to cope with tensions and negative attitudes has a significant impact on people’s performance, productivity, and realization of abilities. And so, changes in mental health have a clear impact on economic coping, work motivation, interpersonal relationships, and many other vital situations.
Mental well-being starts from the very beginning and can be supported and improved throughout the life cycle
The widespread mental health problems in Estonia are not inevitable. Mental well-being can be nurtured. It is possible to cultivate coping skills, adaptability, mental endurance, and resilience throughout life. Developing such skills is essential for adapting to the 21st-century economic situation, lifelong (re-)learning, and the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Learning to cope from an early age – parenting skills, supportive families and communities, and the educational system that helps to notice mental problems at an early-stage level – all play a synergistic role here. Age-appropriate programs to support the mental health of young people, jobs and adequate support services can play an important role in promoting mental health in adulthood, but this requires a solution to a problem where we have a major shortage of mental health professionals.
The Green Paper on Mental Health, written in 2020, speaks of all this, and mental health professionals in Estonia have been talking about the need for all of this for years. What is still missing is to set mental health as a national priority, to create a clear separate governance structure and funding for this very dispersed and complex area, and to decide how to bring the area to a new level in Estonia.
What could we do about it?
1. Strong guardianship for central and structured leadership in the field of mental health
Promoting mental health and fostering synergies between them requires a long-term program (such as 10 years) from supporting early on prevention in the community, families and schools to train various specialist providers, quality assessment, regulation and funding in local, education and health systems. As a result, mental health is cross-cutting and burdened with many stigmas that do not make it easy to prioritize mental health. This means that initiating virtually any program can require a large amount of guardianship and coalition building. All this requires an agreed vision, adequate management and the allocation of resources from the state budget within a reasonable time frame in order to move the field from a series of project-based experiments to systemic synergies.
2. Reducing stigma from mental health self-help and community-based mental health services – early on prevention of mental health problems
The Green Paper on Mental Health highlights a very important aspect of early on prevention – self-help in mental health, i.e. building coping skills at the level of individuals, families and the community in order to reduce mental health problems. Until now, self-help in Estonia has had a rather dubious value, but it is the private sector that could contribute to the rebranding of “mental fitness”.
3. Development of mental health services for young people with the help of the private sector
The mental health of young people is worrying, and the COVID-19 crisis has increased isolation and the resulting risks. The private sector and the third sector can help the state to develop suitable evidence-based services for young people and to scale them sufficiently.
4. Addressing technical and regulatory bottlenecks in the provision of psychological services over the Internet
The COVID-19 crisis showed that the rules for providing remote psychological services had to be rethought and negotiated when face-to-face meetings became impossible. It turned out that not all service providers had the necessary technology, that service providers were concerned about data security and that different hospitals had different internal rules for the provision of remote services. The harmonization of rules and technical requirements for the provision of distance psychological services is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
The field of mental health is wide-ranging and needs our input to develop solutions. The ambition of the Accelerate Estonia team is high – to find the capable people around the world who are ready to experiment and test innovative solutions with us which would bring new breathing to the field of mental health. Are you ready to join us? Are you ready to take risks and test? If so, consider this as a teaser to offer your solution in January 2021. Until then, we wish you a calm holiday period.