Maxima message lowers threshold for young people talking about mental health

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“Talk, talk, talk. It really helps.” With these words, Queen Maxima addressed the Dutch youth in an open letter. Study after study shows that mental health among this group has declined in recent years, especially among girls and young women.

With her message titled You’re not aloneThe Queen draws attention to this. It invites young people and adults to discuss feelings such as stress or sadness with each other. Maxima writes that young people deserve “unconditional support and help to stay mentally healthy.” “It simply begins with a listening ear and honest conversation.”

This conversation does not happen on its own. Search from 3Ask (Part of EenVandaag Opinion Panel) Shows that at least half of young people view mental health as a taboo. Three-quarters of young people quit when they are unwell.

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It is recognizable, says Naglaa Driouch, a healthcare psychologist. “The young people in my treatment room often find it difficult to talk about their mental health. Shame plays a role here, but they also don’t want to burden others. And if they tell, people in the area don’t always know how they should respond to it.”

Such barriers have also been seen by researcher Sophie Liegdisdorf, who has a PhD from Maastricht University on the mental health of young people. “Young people think their problems aren’t bad enough. Or they think their feelings are unjustified, for example because they grew up in a nice environment.”

Research has previously shown that psychological problems in young people have increased significantly, especially among girls:

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Increasing psychological problems among young people

Leijdesdorff and Edriouch are committed to having a conversation about mental health issues, even outside the treatment room. For example, Edriouch posts tips and information about mental health on YouTube and on her Instagram. Leijdesdorff is a psychologist at the ease Foundation, a place where young people with mental health issues can go anonymously during the hour of consultation or by chatting online with peers who are also experienced experts.

According to experts, it is important to remove barriers for young people who want to talk about their problems. “The minute you talk, it can be a huge relief. You’re not alone anymore,” says Edreusch. “It can be the first step toward help from her own environment, but it’s also a step toward professional help.”

This help is especially important for young people, said researcher Juniki Stevens of Utrecht University in Florida Radio NOS 1 News On NPO Radio 1. “Young people with mental issues in adolescence often retain them for later in life. It is very important to step in, support them, talk to them and find out what’s going on during this time. It’s happening.”

Maxima’s appeal contributes to this. “Máxima shows it’s okay to talk about it,” researcher Leijdesdorff says. Healthcare psychologist Edryush believes the message breaks taboos. “It’s good to see that people like the Queen are concerned about this. Maxima does so not only with this message, but also by sharing personal experiences with the subject, such as her younger sister’s suicide.”

Maxima’s sister Ines committed suicide in 2018, after years of psychological problems and feelings of depression. The Queen is involved in the topic of mental health in other ways, too. Her daughters, Amalia and Alexia, received psychiatric help. The Queen spoke about this at the launch event of Mind US, a foundation committed to the mental health of young people, of which she is emeritus chair.

Edriush says Maxima’s openness makes her message more credible. “It shows that anyone can deal with these problems, even if you seem to be very successful.”

But it confirms that more is needed. Edryush: “In practice you see, for example, long waiting lists and young people with discounts when they seek care. This is not something that will be resolved quickly. But paying attention to this, as Maxima asked in her letter, is also the first step.”

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