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New initiative will get young people with signs of anxiety or depression into education or work

Too many young people in Denmark are outside the education system and the labour market. Some show signs of anxiety or depression but do not have a diagnosis and therefore rarely get professional help. The Reconnect project offers young people help at the local level to get back into education or work.

Every sixth 15- to 29-year-old Dane (186,000 people) is not in education and not working. This excludes them from some of the most important communities in society, with an increased risk of unemployment, social exclusion and reduced quality of life. For society, this means increased public expenditure on transfer payments, treating people for illness and intervention by social authorities.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded a grant of DKK 20 million over 5 years for the Reconnect project, which will test and evaluate a combined education, employment and psychotherapy initiative targeting young people with signs of anxiety or depression. Inge Storgaard Bonfils, Associate Professor and Reconnect Project Manager, University College Copenhagen, says:

“Research shows that up to 60% of the young people who drop out of an educational programme or quit a job have mental health problems. Some of these young people are not specifically diagnosed with any mental health disorder and are therefore not being treated. Early preventive efforts are important to target these people’s mental distress alongside initiatives to promote education and employment in Denmark’s municipalities.”

On 1 August 2019, new legislation will enter into force requiring Denmark’s municipalities to ensure coherent initiatives targeting young people that are coordinated across the education, employment and social sectors. This opens up opportunities for the municipalities to use new methods to integrate these initiatives.

Initiatives tailored to individuals

The initiative is based on an evidence-based employment method called individual placement and support that has traditionally targeted adults with severe mental disorders, with good results.

The Reconnect project will adapt the individual placement and support method for 15- to 24-year olds with signs of anxiety and/or depression who are not in education and not working, explains Inge Storgaard Bonfils:

“Young people in the three participating municipalities will be offered screening for anxiety or depression if mental distress is suspected. A young person with symptoms of varying severity will be invited to take part in the Reconnect project that will put them in touch with an adapted education and employment initiative featuring individual placement and support combined with an individual or group psychotherapeutic municipal initiative. The psychotherapeutic aspect is based on the Danish Health Authority’s disease management programme for children and adolescents with anxiety and/or depression.”

Hanna Line Jakobsen, Head of Social, Humanitarian and Development Aid, Novo Nordisk Foundation, says:

“By supporting Reconnect, the Novo Nordisk Foundation aims to contribute to improving the quality of life and opportunities for disadvantaged young people. The project will create important research-based knowledge that can suggest new ways of ensuring positive connections to the education system and the job market for individual young people.”

University College Copenhagen will evaluate the process and, in collaboration with Aalborg University, will evaluate the experience of the participants. University College Copenhagen will assess the impact and economics of the Reconnect model in collaboration with VIVE – the Danish Center for Social Science Research.

Reconnect is based at the Department of Social Education of University College Copenhagen and is being implemented in collaboration with the Municipality of Rødovre, Regional Municipality of Bornholm, City of Copenhagen, Aalborg University and VIVE – the Danish Center for Social Science Research.


Inge Storgaard Bonfils, Associate Professor and Reconnect Project Manager, Department of Social Education, University College Copenhagen
Phone: +45 5138 0476
[email protected]

Julia Salado-Rasmussen, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Education, University College Copenhagen
Phone: +45 5138 0265
[email protected]

Press contacts

Katja Bender Sebbelov, Journalist, University College Copenhagen
Phone: +45 4189 7065
[email protected]

Christian Mostrup Scheel, Senior Press Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation
Phone: +45 3067 4805
[email protected]