14 citizen ideas on mental health

19. December 2022

In the Basque city of Tolosa, a citizens' jury presented 14 recommendations to the city council on 17 December 2022 to improve the mental health of the population.

The jury with 32 members proposes, for example, an inclusive urban design. All people should have the opportunity to use and enjoy public space and its amenities such as benches, tables, etc. For example, wheelchair users should be able to dispose of their waste independently through appropriately designed waste bins. This is meant to improve their mental health through a sense of belonging to the city.

Study on mental health

The city is to prepare a study on the mental health of the population with the participation of various population groups, from which necessary measures for improving the health situation are to be derived. Under the motto "We all have a volunteer in us", the city is to promote the civic engagement of its inhabitants. Advantage: the volunteers feel better as a result, as do the recipients of the resulting services.

The citizens' jury participants complain that there is no space and opportunity for discussion and an exchange of knowledge in the city. Therefore, the city should create a permanent place of this kind open to all citizens. In addition, the municipality should create an information centre where citizens can find out about municipal assistance and how they can get involved in Tolosa. Clubs, associations and other civil society groups in the city are to be linked via a corresponding office.

Affordable housing for young people

To improve the mental health of young people, the jury proposes the creation of more affordable housing. For example, vacant flats should be made easier to rent out and existing areas should be built on with new flats. The houses should be community-oriented and built according to ecological standards.

The citizens' jury also wants to see the "digital divide" overcome and especially older people supported in using digital media in areas such as buying tickets, transport, banking and community services.

Protect LGBT*IQ youth

As the suicide rate among homosexual, bisexual, trans*, inter* and queer youth is higher than among heterosexual people of the same age, the citizens' jury proposes to support these youth by educating parents and teachers, but also by providing psychological support to the affected persons themselves. The LGBT*IQ community must be made visible in the city.

In order for immigrants to also feel comfortable in Tolosa, the jury participants would like to see such people accompanied into the city society and their working world. This should be done, among other things, through remunerated volunteer work. In addition, the city should cooperate here with various social associations that look after migrants.

Public spaces for young people

For young people between the ages of 13 and 18, the citizens' jury misses public spaces where they can stay and where they can meet, especially in winter. Therefore, these young people should be offered a self-managed space in the city. In order to not only have bars as places to stay, young people between the ages of 18 and 25 should also be given their own spaces with a gastronomic offer.

According to the citizens' jury, the loss of people's contact with nature creates unease. Contact with nature favours a different view of life. This leads to a different set of values such as respect, care, employment, solidarity and knowledge. Therefore, the city should promote gardening in the city as well as picnic areas, intergenerational contacts in parks and encounters with animals.

In order to achieve its goals, every intelligent government must promote the participation of the population and in this way gain the trust of the people, the jury says.

City wants to implement recommendations

On 25 March 2023, the Tolosa City Council had responded to the proposals of the citizens' jury. Mayor Olatz Peon and councillors Joseba Ormazabal, Andu Martinez de Rituerto and Jose Mari Villanueva have explained for each recommendation what is to be implemented and by when, and where funds will be allocated for this in the municipal budget.

For example, the city wants to carry out an analysis of mental health in the municipality. Volunteer work in this area is to be supported and the information and services offered by the city are to be expanded. The municipality also wants to promote housing projects for young people. The administration wants to initiate projects to help narrow the digital divide in the city.

Reducing suicides

Preventive measures, awareness campaigns, training and a guide will be used to reduce the number of suicides among LGBT*IQ youth. The city also wants to launch actions to help residents have better contact with the environment and nature. Furthermore, there will be projects to protect local ecosystems.

The city is committed to allowing citizens' jury participants to monitor and participate in the implementation of their recommendations. In October 2023 and 2024, the municipality will report on the status of the implementation of the jury proposals.

Cooperation and involvement of citizens

"We believe that we need to respond to the complex challenges we face by working together and involving citizens in policy-making," said Mayor Olatz Peon Ormazabal at the launch of the citizens' jury at a press conference. The aim of the process, he said, is to involve citizens in the discussion of an important problem and challenge.

In the City Council, all political groups supported the citizens' jury, which was prepared with the support of the Arantzulab Social Innovation Laboratory and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A new culture of participation is to be anchored in Tolosa. "Creating a space for joint deliberation not only gives citizens a leading role in some of the policy decisions that will shape our future, but also helps build citizens' trust in political institutions," said Naiara Goia, executive director of Arantzazulab.

2,400 randomly selected residents of the city had received an invitation to the citizens' jury. Among those who had applied to participate, a second draw was conducted to form the final group of participants.

Recommendations for authorities

The citizens' jury was to debate the mental health of the city's inhabitants and develop recommendations for action for the city authorities. In doing so, participants were to answer the following question: What can the city of Tolosa do in terms of community collaboration to achieve a Tolosa that improves the health and emotional well-being of all?

Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social well-being. Citizens' jury participants will receive information on this from experts.

Five meetings

The citizens' jury met five times. Participants had committed to attend all meetings, which were always held on Saturdays. The meetings took place on 22 October, 5 November, 19 November, 3 December and 17 December from 9am to 6pm. For their participation, jury members received an expense allowance of 444 euros. Since 15 December 2022, the citizens' jury has been supplemented by a children's jury with 40 randomly selected children.

Second citizens' jury on mental health

The citizens' jury in Tolosa is the second on mental health in Spain. In the autonomous community of Valencia, a citizens' jury in March and April 2022 had developed recommendations on this, but also on the issues of drug addiction and addictive behaviour.

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