Joint statement 13th August 2021
The hardships in accessing mental health services have been recognized and currently discussed widely in Finland. The citizen initiative Immediate access to therapy (Terapiatakuu) has demanded easier and faster access to mental health services, proceeding with over 52 000 signatures to the parliament. Minorities’ hindered access to psychosocial treatment however has not been raised in the public discussion.
Especially non-Finnish-speaking LGBTIQ+ people are in a vulnerable situation, yet they face a multitude of problems in accessing mental health services. These problems reflect an urgent need for an intersectional approach in health care services. In practice, intersectionality refers to awareness of the impacts of various social categories such as race, gender, sexuality and class on experiences of discrimination.
We demand that minorities’ needs for mental health services have to be taken seriously. We call for an action plan: concrete targets to improve the situation have to be incorporated in the planning and provision of mental health services as part of the National Health and social services reform (sote-uudistus).
1 Guaranteed access to mental health services for most vulnerable LGBTIQA+ people
Mental health problems continue to be a higher burden among migrated and LGBTIQ+ persons. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic further increases the problems. Ignorance of language and cultural differences in Finland results in a worsening situation for migrated LGBTIQ+ people.
2 Guaranteed fast access to continued gender transition therapy for migrated trans persons
Moreover, migrated trans persons need to start their gender transition therapy from the beginning in Finland while the waiting time to trans polyclinic in Finland is chronically long. They have to wait for more than a one-year to access the therapy, causing tremendous psychological hardships for trans persons.
3 Obligatory education on inclusivity and sensibility in therapist certificates
Currently, psychotherapy and counselling education takes heterosexual relationships and clients with similar backgrounds and normative gender identities for granted. Education including training on sexual diversity as well as language and cultural differences have to be incorporated into the curriculum. Individuals with varying language proficiencies and different cultural backgrounds must be encouraged to become employed as therapists. The psychotherapy training programmes must also be financially accessible, preferably free of charge, and part of university curricula.
4 Intersectional approach as a basis for mental health services
An intersectional approach needs to be set at the core in planning and providing mental health services in Finland. Dialogue between health care experts, decision-makers, and NGOs have to be maintained, strengthened and encouraged at every level.
Government Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda(sub-target 3.4) states that “ Finland has succeeded in reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment while also promoting mental health and well-being. The situation is monitored continuously and measures will be continued and their efficiency increased”.
The Finnish National Mental Health Strategy and Programme for Suicide Prevention 2020–2030 – states that ”specific attention is given to minorities including different language and cultural groups”. It also underlines the development of “culturally sensitive suicide prevention programmes and emergency support which take into account different cultural and language groups, including indigenous people, LGBT and other minority groups, victims of violence and others in critical situations”. The intersectional approach must be transferred from policy papers into concrete measures with sufficient funding.
The ongoing preparation of the National Social and Health Care Reform (Sote) is a vital moment to tackle these issues and to set concrete targets with adhering implementation plans.
Eva Biaudet Member of Parliament
Aleksi Jalava Psychotherapist Psychologist and psychotherapist specialized in gender, sexual and relationship diversity
Kristian Wahlbeck MIELI Mental Health Finland
Hassen Hnini The Settlement Movement (Setlementtiliitto)
Mercedesz Czimbalmos Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
Juho Aalto & Pauliina Lukinmaa on behalf of Committee of International Affairs, Seta (LGBTI Rights in Finland)
The statement is based on a panel discussion: How are we doing? Mental health care needs, disparities, and well-being of non-Finnish speaking LGBTIQA+ people in Finland, organized by Sexual Rights Finland Seta’s (LGBTI Rights in Finland) International Affairs Committee, held on 1st of July as part of the Helsinki Pride 2021.