Amsterdam 2.-4.11.2016

The Role of Youth Work

The topic of the first meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands (Nov. 2nd - Nov 4th 2016) was the role of youth work (formal and informal) in relation to participation by young people with mental issues; focusing on participation, empowerment and inclusion. So we looked at this issue from the perspective of chances and opportunities. The meeting focused on the three themes and roles of youth work.

Read the Report of the first meeting in Amsterdam here.

  • Integrated working and partnership - the low threshold role of youth work. The element of being easy accessible and a low threshold is a key aspect of youth work, which can be complementary to mental health services. Youth work and youth services not only play a role in the prevention of mental health services but also have a lot to offer for young people suffering from mental health issues.Youth work is a basic provision and plays an important role in the leisure time of young people. It creates links between young people and their environment. Youth work also works from the perspective of creating meaningful relationships. All these aspects can be very valuable in the creation of partnerships with other services for young people with mental health issues such as treatment places and schools. This peer review aims at exploring innovative partnerships.
  • Participation and Empowerment - the engaging role of youth work. There is a lot of knowledge and expertise in the field of youth work on how to empower and engage young people, focusing on talents and skills. In youth work the participation and self organization of young people is self-evident. How can these experiences be transferred to reaching out to young people with mental health issues. The inclusive environment of youth work is an example for other sectors. Empowerment also means giving young people with mental health issues a voice in decision making and the development of youth-friendly services. Based on experience youth work can facilitate young people with mental health issues in this process.
  • Destigmatising - the facilitating role of youth work. Young people with mental health issues often have to deal with stigmatisation. Feeling different or being categorized as different from the social ‘norm’ often results in loss of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Young people themselves are key players when it comes to destigmatising having mental health issues. Youth work  and youth organisations can help them to beat the stigma and to take initiatives on this issue. It can support young people to reach their peers, teachers, parents, care professionals and employers. And they can use media sources to be open about the problems and strengths which are needed to live with or to overcome mental health issues. Youth work works from the viewpoint of young people and is often a safe place where negative labels are less visible. This can be the strength that youth work can bring into the debate on young people with mental health issues.


Caroline Vink
Senior Advisor Transformation of Family and Children Services

The Netherlands Youth Institute
Catharijnesingel 47
P.O. Box 19221
3501 DE Utrecht The Netherlands 
t +31 (0)30 230 6408 (direct and mobile)

Elina Marjamäki
Project Planner; Mental Health Promotion of Young People

The Finnish Association for Mental Health
Maistraatinportti 4 A
00240 Helsinki
Tel. +358 40 678 7295