Helsinki must take responsibility for its young people

The other day I wrote a letter to the newspaper. It wasn’t on a topic I ordinarily write about. It was for Helsingin Sanomat, photo below of the paper version, which I still indulge in on weekends.

Here’s my translation.

“Starting in August, Helsinki’s Youth Station will be restricting access to mental health and substance abuse services directed at 13 – 23 year-olds (as covered in the paper 23.7.2022). Thenceforth receiving help will always require a referral, presenting either moderate mental health problems or severe substance abuse issues.

Alongside all the other depressing streams of news, the short Helsingin Sanomat piece has stuck in my mind, even though I’m getting closer to being sixty. Should Helsinki not be focussing on the young, and where necessary be investing more rather than fewer resources into youth social work? At least there has been ample coverage in recent times of the challenges experienced by young people and children, who are growing up in the shadow of a pandemic, ecological crises and wars, and exhausted by all manner of competitions.

I am confused and a little frightened that the Youth Station’s work is to be reduced. Not taking responsibility for our young people erodes everybody’s wellbeing. At the moment is sounds as if the city is suggesting the young go seek help somewhere else.”

I wasn’t expecting them to publish it, but I’m pleased they did. They cut off a sentence from the end, noting that it’s not as if social enterprises abound that make up for this. Maybe it was for the better.

I consider my main occupation to be engaging in environmental politics through education and research. I can’t do that, nor do I believe can anyone, if the existential security of young people is dismissed in the way that Helsinki appears to be doing.

I didn’t dig into the reasons for the shift in municipal policy. I do know that in years gone by this service was considered a low-entry and easy-to-access form of support for people with difficulties that are usually very, very difficult to talk about.

I also spotted (on doing an online search for writing this post) that a psychiatric publication had shared the letter on Facebook where it appears to have collected a few likes.

Yours truly/angry expects to continue such little letter writing exercises in the future too.

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