Danish political support grows for psychological treatment without doctor’s referral

Free psychological help for young people should be available without the need for a referral from a doctor, according to two of Denmark’s left-wing parties.

Danish political support grows for psychological treatment without doctor’s referral
File photo: Lars Rievers/Ritzau Scanpix

The Social Democratic government and its parliamentary allies have already agreed in principle to extend an existing provision for free psychological help so that 6-24-year-olds can also make use of the service.

Free psychological consultation has already seen an increased number of people seeking out help in relation to when a 40 percent user payment was required, according to figures from health authorities (Danske Regioner) and the Danish Psychological Association (Dansk Psykolog Forening).

Newspaper Jyllands-Posten reports that the scheme cost 9.6 million kroner more than expected during its first year, equivalent to 80 percent more use than expected.

A number of parties now want to make the provision more accessible by removing the criteria of a doctor’s referral or diagnosis of “mild to moderate anxiety and depression,” as currently required under the scheme.

Socialist People’s Party (SF) spokesperson for psychological issues Trine Torp said she was not concerned about spiralling costs, should the provision be made referral-free.

“Therapeutic work is hard. It’s not just a chat over a cup of coffee. Psychologists are constantly assessing whether the patient needs help,” Torp told Jyllands-Posten.

“The increase in the cost (to the state) reflects that the need is there,” she added.

The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), another of the government’s supporting parties, also backs those views, according to Jyllands-Posten’s report.

Torp added she saw spending on mental health as a good investment.

“It is an investment that is good on a human, societal and economic level. We know it’s a lot more expensive if these young people instead need psychiatric help, drop out of school or are unable to get a foothold in the labour market,” she told Ritzau.

The Social Liberals still support some form of assessment prior to free psychological treatment, however.

Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke told Jyllands-Posten in a written comment that the “government and support parties agree on… extension of the existing scheme for free psychological help to encompass 6-24-year-olds.”

READ ALSO: Moving to Denmark: The link between international relocation and depression

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Mental health of one in five in Denmark suffered during Covid-19 pandemic

Mental health amongst the Danish population was worse in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, than in 2019.

Mental health of one in five in Denmark suffered during Covid-19 pandemic
Photo: Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

The findings come from a study of wellbeing, health and work environments in Denmark conducted by the National Institute of Public Health (Statens Institut for Folkesundhed).

One in five people have seen their mental health deteriorate during the coronavirus crisis, the study found.

“We can see that around one fifth – 21 percent – consider their mental health during the crisis to be lower compared to before the crisis,” said professor Lau Caspar Thygesen, who led the study.

The National Institute of Public Health asked the same 5,000 people about their mental health in 2019 and in autumn 2020, when society was seeing a second round of increased coronavirus restrictions.

The next stage of the study is to see whether any particular societal groups have experienced a greater change than others.

“We can see that mental health for people with higher education levels has worsened more than for those with short educations,” Thygesen said.

“The reason for this could be that highly-education individuals may have seen a bigger impact on their everyday lives than those with lower education levels, who may have been able to work as normal to a greater extent,” he said.

The researcher also noted that a smaller group of 11 percent said their mental health had improved during the crisis. That group may have benefited from a change in routines caused by Covid-19.

Other results from the study show that 54 percent are worried that someone they know will get sick. 52 percent are concerned about infecting others, and 36 percent are worried that they themselves will get ill.

The study also found that  the proportion of people with depression-like symptoms increased slightly from 9 percent in 2019 to 11 percent in 2020.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces plan to aid wellbeing of young people hit by lockdown