Sunday, 15 May 2022

Expert Warns About Lack of Comprehensive Strategy for Prevention of Child Suicide

ZAGREB, 15 May 2022 - Commenting for Hina on data on suicide attempts and suicides in children and young people, psychologist Andreja Bogdan has called for paying more attention to the problem, warning that Croatia lacks a comprehensive national programme for the prevention of suicide in children and young people. 

"Since 2013 there has been no comprehensive, nation-wide, evaluated programme for the prevention of suicide among children and young people, and the problem is mostly dealt with by individual nongovernmental organisations," Bogdan said when asked to comment on information that in 2021 seven children committed suicide and 63 attempted to commit suicide.

The Ministry of the Interior has confirmed that last year seven persons under the age of 18 committed suicide, which is less than in 2020, when there were 10 suicide cases in that age group, but more than in 2019, when six persons under 18 committed suicide.

The suicides committed by children and young people in 2021 accounted for 1.22% of the total number of suicides committed that year, in 2020 they accounted for 1.77% of all suicides that year and in 2019 for 1.06% of all suicides.

A ministry statistical report for 2018 shows that that year three children under 14 committed suicide while 15 attempted to commit suicide and that seven in the age group 15-18 committed suicide while 54 tried to commit it.

Bogdan notes that the official statistics on suicide may vary from the actual numbers because in some cases, such as an attempt to commit suicide with drugs, by poisoning or by using a car, it is difficult to determine intent so such a suicide or suicide attempt is registered as a car accident, poisoning, accidental fall, etc.

She notes that research shows that suicide is one of the leading causes of death from injuries in Croatia.

The psychologist notes that suicidal thoughts and attempts to commit suicide are more frequent at a young age than later in life.

"The rate of suicide attempts or suicides in young people is the highest in the age group 14-19, with males being more at risk both among children and adults," she says, noting that growing up in today's society is not simple and is accompanied by many challenges and questions important for children's personal identity.

On top of that, children are likely to act on impulse and seek excitement and are less aware of the consequences of their behaviour, Bogdan says.

Among the more important risk factors are parents' unemployment and low income, parents not having a close relationship with their children, low level of parental supervision and divorce, mental illnesses in parents, and early parental death.

Children who are victims of peer violence, cyberbullying, children suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, children who use drugs and children with behavioural issues are more at risk of developing suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

Bogdan, a former president of the Croatian Chamber of Psychologists, has objections to the way the policy of suicide prevention has been implemented in the past few years.

"There are individual events dedicated to the issue of suicide and expert training, but there is no clear, structured and continuous implementation of evaluated, scientifically based programmes," she says.

Since 2013 there has been no comprehensive, evaluated programme for the prevention of suicide in children and young people at the national level, and the problem of prevention is most often dealt with by nongovernmental organisations, she says, noting that children and young people lack sufficient information of who to contact for help when in distress.

The experience of work on hotlines for psychological support to children and adolescents, initiated by the Central State Demography and Youth Office shows that children and young people are not likely to talk about their problems or seek psychological help on the telephone, which underlines even more the need for educational institutions to have  mental health experts, Bogdan says.

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Monday, 30 November 2020

Milanovic Talks With Federation of Associations for Mental Health

ZAGREB, November 30, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic on Monday received a delegation of associations for mental health to discuss an initiative to adopt a national mental health strategy 2020 - 2030.

Speaking on behalf of the delegation Vlatka Rocic Petak informed President Milanovic of the reasons to launch the initiative and warned that the adoption of the strategy is a precondition to provide optimum health care for people with mental disturbances, the president's office said in a press release.

In addition to advocating the adoption of the draft national strategy in parliament and its speedy implementation in practice, the delegation underlined the need to introduce mobile teams and peer support groups in the community to the existing psycho-social services that are financed by the Croatian Health Insurance Institute.

The delegation also pointed out the problem of finding sources of permanent financing of programmes and projects that associations are involved with while providing psycho-social services in the community, the press release said.

Friday, 20 November 2020

SDP Calls on Minister to Adopt Specific Measures to Protect Children's Mental Health

ZAGREB, November 20, 2020 - The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) has called on the health minister to adopt, as soon as possible, measures to protect and improve the health of children and young people, especially their mental health.

The appeal was issued on Friday on the occasion of World Children's Day.

The SDP cited research conducted among pre-school and school children showing high rates of violence, mental disorders and a decline in healthy lifestyles.

Violence is present in all age groups, with physical violence being more prevalent among younger children and verbal violence among older children. An estimated 20 percent of children suffer from  mental health disorders such as depression, eating or behavioural disorder and anxiety, the party said in a statement.

Quality free time has been replaced by the use of electronic devices, which has led to growing obesity among children, and the present coronavirus crisis, which requires the adjustment of children and their parents/carers to new teaching environments, will have both short-term and long-term effects on children, the SDP warned.

The SDP said that in the present crisis special emphasis should be placed on protecting the mental health of children, calling on the Ministry of Health to adopt, as soon as possible, specific measures to protect and improve the health of children and young people, especially their mental health.

Friday, 9 October 2020

MP Says Number of Psychiatric Patients Growing, Croatia Lacks Strategy

ZAGREB, October 9, 2020 - MP Tomislav Tomasevic of the We Can! platfom said on Friday, on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, that the number of psychiatric patients in Croatia had been growing due to the coronavirus pandemic and that there was no national strategy to improve medical and social services for those patients.

"The number of mental disorders has been growing icreasingly but despite that, since 2016 we have not had a strategy for the improvement of mental health that would envisage implementation instruments and funding for medical and social services," Tomasevic told reporters.


Depression to become most widespread disease globally by 2030

He recalled estimates by the World Health Organisation saying that  depression would become the most widespread disease in Croatia and the rest of the world by 2030, noting that this problem was discussed very little.

"Because of the stigma that goes with mental disorders, people hide their problems... and public focus or the focus of political debates is not on topics such as mental health," he warned.

This needs to change because the "new normal" caused by the coronavirus pandemic will have major consequences for the population's mental health, he said.

New Left party leader Ivana Kekin, who works as a psychiatrist at the KBC Zagreb hospital, warned that for a long time not enough had been invested in mental health in Croatia.


Kekin: Pandemic caused drop in quality of mental health services

"The WHO recently published a study which shows that during the pandemic in 93% of countries worldwide the quality of health services in the area of mental health has dropped, and Croatia is no exception," Kekin said.

She warned that as of recently psychiatric wards were being closed down in the country, such as the one at Zagreb's KB Dubrava hospital, while the space for psychiatric patients at KBC Zagreb was being reduced due to the March 22 earthquake.

"Instead of expanding and investing in infrastructure, we have been 'shrinking' and services are becoming less and less available," she warned.

We know that the vaccine for the coronavirus will be ready in the winter or possibly spring, but there is and will be no vaccine for depression, panic attacks, alcoholism and suicide, she said.

The first step should be to adopt a national strategy to increase investments in prevention and mobile teams, and we have to move away from the model of treatment where most chronic patients are hospitalised, Kekin said.