The general objective of PRO-YOUTH is the promotion of mental health of young people aged 15 to 25 through personalized stepped care integrating prevention, early diagnosis, immediate intervention and appropriate management of eating disorder (ED) related mental health problems. Specifically, the project aims at the improvement of young people`s quality of life, by reducing the number of individuals affected by ED and minimizing the burden and duration of suffering for those affected. Moreover, PRO-YOUTH focuses on reducing inequalities, reaching underserved populations, and de-stigmatising mental disorders by psychoeducation and peer support. Young people`s self-management skills are strengthened and they are encouraged to seek the best and most effective health care assistance. The inclusion of different settings, contexts, and stakeholders together with the respective capacity building will provide a knowledge base that better enables young people and their health care providers to adopt proven strategies to promote mental health and prevent mental illness.
The promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illness in young people deserve full attention by the European health strategies. Mental illness accounts for a considerable proportion of the disease burden in Europe and for a growing proportion of the associated costs. Healthcare systems in various countries face similar challenges (e.g. late diagnosis, inadequate treatment of mental illness). PRO-YOUTH will contribute to the second Health Programme’s objective "Promote Health", specifically to the promotion of mental health.
The project involves young people in the development and implementation of online platforms for mental health promotion (specifically the prevention of eating disorders) in educational settings (schools, universities). Special emphasis is given to the collaboration between PRO-YOUTH partners and local / regional authorities and health institutions. Sound anchoring of the PRO-YOUTH initiative within the respective region-specific structures will ensure long-term sustainability of the implemented interventions.
The PRO-YOUTH network includes partners from seven countries who are well connected with regional or national health care institutions. The network will take advantage of the Internet platform Es[s]prit developed and successfully evaluated by the main partner. Only easy-access and broadly available information and communication technologies (ICT) will be used ensuring easy and low-threshold access to the platforms. The chosen strategy will allow to address large samples at reasonable time and effort. Special emphasis will be given to capacity building by training key persons delivering the intervention including young people who will serve as student moderators.
The implementation of the PRO-YOUTH platforms will ensure the provision of seamless care from prevention to early intervention to treatment. Support will be provided in part via automated, but personalized online modules. If need for more intense help is detected, expert support will be provided via the Internet and if necessary face-to-face.
PRO-YOUTH will promote mental health and prevent ED through the reduction of ED risk factors and providing timely support if needed. The personalized stepped care approach promises to have a positive effect on the healthy life years (HLY) which should result in less sick days and improved academic performance. Furthermore, the early detection of health problems will lead to less severe symptom courses resulting in reduced treatment costs. The internet allows for anonymous, low intense offers, encouraging students to get help according to their personal needs. If indicated, online-counsellors can use the first anonymous contact to motivate students to use more intense programme components or refer them to the regular health system.
PRO-YOUTH will help to reduce inequalities by ensuring accessibility to everyone by using only technologies which are broadly available. This promises an extensive reach especially to rural and remote areas. Inequalities will be reduced by providing specific versions for minorities.