Mental health of young people is an important topic which is not talked about enough in today’s society that is often overwhelmed by various problems, it was pointed out at a round table organized by the Croatian Institute for Health Insurance (HZZO) in cooperation with the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) in advance of World mental health day that the World Health Organization celebrates each year on October 10th. The leading experts in the field of mental health of young people participated, including the Director of the Center Prof. Sc. D. Gordana Buljan Flander.
– In Croatia, every year about 2000 young people under the age of 18 are hospitalized due to mental difficulties – emphasized Dr. sc. Ivana Pavić Šimetin from the Croatian Public Health Institute.
– Although police reports recently showed that there is a growing number of suicides in Croatia, the number of suicides has been decreasing. For example, in the past year, 15 young people under the age of 18 have commited suicide, and this year it was 9 young people – said dr. Maja Silobrčić Radić from the Croatian Public Health Institute. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in hospitalization due to mental health problems.
Prof. dr. sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, director of the Child and Youth Protection Center, said that parents don’t spend enough time with their children today, so the children often withdraw into themselves and become aggressive:
– Today, every fifth child is sexually abused. If parents are the source of the problem, then parents can’t even recognize mental health difficulties that their child is developing. The problems must be recognized by experts, and it is therefore important that parents, health professionals and kindergarten teachers work together.
The problem of stationary treatment in child psychiatry and the lack of hospital beds in Croatian hospitals in child psychiatry was discussed by doc. dr. sc. Ivan Begovac, Head of the Institute for Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, KBC Zagreb. He emphasized that child psychiatry uses a multidisciplinary approach, but is still not recognized as a special activity, and stressed that there is still a major problem with the diagnosis of childhood autism and eating disorders. He noted that the development of a strategic plan for child psychiatry is in progress.
Prevention has to start in kindergartens
Prof. Marina Vitković from “It Hurts” Initiative – for supporting mental health with a purpose of raising awareness, educating and advocating improvement in the field of mental health, stressed that the goal of their association is promotion and prevention of mental health problems and the early search for help. The It Hurts Initiative presents mental health to young people through art:
– We want to tell young people “it’s okay if you’re hurt and feeling the way you are feeling” – said Professor Vitković, adding that mental health is inseparable from physical health, and is much more than the absence of mental illness.
Prof. Sc. D. Gordana Buljan Flander further said that the phenomenon of cyberbullying (abuse via the Internet) is now an ubiquitous phenomenon, and every third child is experiencing his type of violence. For example, every fifth child experiences violence on Facebook, while 10% of children admit that they themselves have committed violence. Anonymity on the networks additionally encourages them to become even more cruel. She emphasized that prevention should be taken into account even in kindergarten, because today even kindergarten-age children spend about 2.5 hours a day in front of small screens. Also, children under 4 years of age use mobile phones.
“Be present, ask children what they are dealing with,” Dr. Buljan Flander said to parents.
Dr. Igor Salopek of the Croatian Association of Mental Health Organizations has emphasized the important role of associations involved in supporting mental health, their preventive engagement and assistance in the process of recovery. He said the associations bring additional value, but they can not be a substitute for the process of treating mental illness. He also stressed the importance of antistigmation campaigns when it comes to mental illnesses. The strongest factor in destigmatization is making contact with people suffering from mental illnesses.
Dr. Ljubica Paradžik, from the Psychiatric Hospital for Children and Youth, presented data from the 2015 survey, which showed that around 19.3% of children under the age of 18 have mental health problems, which corresponds with dana from World Health Organization which state that worldwide, around 20% of young people have mental health problems. It was also mentioned that today’s great expectations regarding school success brings too much pressure on children.
Ph.D. Ante Bagaric, head of the Institute for Addictive Diseases at the Psychiatric Clinic, Vrapče, warned that the situation in the world isn’t good, and as a society we have wrong assumptions that our job should be done by someone else:
– We live in a world that is constantly changing, and those changes are difficult to follow. Violent behavior has become popular, we have become a society that has abandoned ethics and aesthetics and developed vulgar and primitive ways of communicating. Public violence is popular, the most vulgar content has the most “likes”, the worse the content is, the more likes it gets – Dr. Bagarić concluded. He also said that today adults and children deal with their psychological pains with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or the Internet. But when the receptors are tired, addiction no longer helps them overcome the internal difficulties.
Dr. Jugoslav Gojković from “Vrapčić” association said that our society doesn’t recognize young people’s problems because they are not a profitable group, even though they are our future. He said he is concerned about the fact that today no one wants to treat an adolescent in acute condition, so the whole problem is recognized by the society too late, as was the case with the war veterans.
The conclusion of this roundtable is that despite today’s challenges and the insufficiently recognized issue of young people’s mental health, it is not too late to co-operate with parents, health workers, educators and teachers on the recognition, prevention and involvment with the mental health of young people.
Round table was moderated by mr. Dubravka Pezelj Duliba, MD from the HZZO, a specialist in public health medicine