Aim: Although mental disorders often emerge early in life, only a minority of young people receive timely and appropriate mental health care. A worldwide youth mental health movement aims to prevent development and persistence of psychiatric disorders. As part of this movement, the first four @ease centres were opened in the Netherlands. @ease is a youth driven, professionally supported initiative, providing peer-to-peer counselling, anonymous and free of charge, for people aged 12–25. Methods: Data consist of a detailed description of the working method of @ease, combined with characteristics of all young people accessing the services between its inception (January 2018) and July 2020. Results: Young-adult peers, including experts by experience, served as counsellors after training in listening, motivational interviewing and solution-focused strategies. They were supervised by a diverse group of healthcare professionals. A total of 291 visitors, aged 21 on average, were satisfied to very satisfied with @ease's services. Psychosocial distress, social functioning and quality of life measures at first visit showed moderate to severe levels of impairment, and almost half of all visitors reported skipping classes. One third reported parental mental illness, 28% suicidal ideations, and 11% had made specific plans. Less than a third of visitors had received mental health care in the 3 months prior to their visit. Conclusion: This study showed the need for and feasibility of a youth driven, professionally supported organization offering peer-to-peer counselling in the Netherlands. Its flexible and individualized working method enables @ease to normalize problems when possible and intervene when necessary.
- service reform
- youth mental health