Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Teachers Need to Be Educated About Students' Mental Health

ZAGREB, 7 June 2022 - Nearly three-quarters of school staff do not know how to recognize problems related to students' mental health or how to help them even though they would like to do so, hence they need to be educated, it was said on Tuesday ahead of this year's UNICEF Milky Way charity race.

This year, UNICEF will support the Milky Way race with a standardized mental health literacy program for teachers called "Help Me", implemented by the Croatian Institute of Public Health with the support of the Agency for Education.

The head of the Living Healthy program, Sanja Musić Milanović, said that in 2017, a survey was conducted on the health literacy of educators.

"The results showed that almost all of them or as many as 95% are willing to learn how to recognise and react to mental health problems of their students. However, 76% do not dare do anything because they do not know how they can help," she said.

That is why we need "education for educators," Musić Milanović said and invited citizens to join and support the education program. She added that physical activity is extremely important for maintaining mental health but also for the prevention of obesity and other health problems associated with being overweight.

The Milky Way race has attracted about 20,000 participants and raised about HRK 2.5 million. This year's edition is especially important because it comes after a challenging and stressful period marked by the pandemic and earthquakes, said the head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, Regina Castillo.

Mental health means a better quality of life, and the first signs of mental health problems appear as early as childhood and puberty. Problems are present in 12% of young people between the ages of 10 and 19, Castillo said. 

"Research conducted in Croatia indicates that the mental health of young people after the pandemic is deteriorating. "The idea behind the 'Help Me' program is to help people between the ages of 14 and 16 because that's when they feel powerless," the director of the Education Agency, Dubravka Brezak Stamać, said.

UNICEF's Milky Way charity race will take place from 9 to 18 September throughout Croatia. Citizens can participate by walking, running, cycling, rollerblading or by making a donation and in that way help raise awareness of the importance of the mental health of children and young people.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Croatian Antidepressant Consumption Growing as Pandemic Drags On

October the 19th, 2021 - Croatian antidepressant consumption, as well as the consumption of various anti-anxiety drugs is increasing as the consequences of such a disturbed way of life over the past year or two takes its toll on collective mental health.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication consumption is on the up, and given the unprecedented and unstable situation we've been put in for the last two years, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

"Given the situation over the last year or two, it's no wonder that there's been have a greater need for antidepressants and other drugs used for the treatment of mental illness. These are drugs that have the potential for addiction, so it's always necessary to be careful when using them,'' warned Toni Vidovic from the City Pharmacy Zagreb for Nova TV.

About 204 million kuna went to both groups last year, and at the same time, a total of 8.4 billion kuna was spent on medicines in the Republic of Croatia as a whole.

"So far, the data for 2020 doesn't really indicate that there would be any abuse of this sort of medication," said Ivana Sipic-Gavrilovic from HALMED.

While Croatian antidepressant consumption is growing, indicating a problem with the population's state of mental health, the consumption of cannabis and cocaine is also growing, which points to a very serious issue of drug abuse indeed.

"There's been an increase in cannabis consumption, cocaine has made a real comeback in recent years and is the ''number two'' drug on the European market at this moment in time. Heroin is still very much around too, with some opiate addicts consuming synthetic drugs as well. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, there was a decline in ecstasy consumption,'' said Zeljko Petkovic, Assistant Director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health for the Suppression of Drug Abuse.

The drop in ecstacy consumption isn't really a shock, especially when taking into account that drugs such as ecstacy and MDMA are often sold and taken by those going to nightclubs, which were heavily hit by lockdowns and restrictions throughout 2020 and into 2021.

"Last year, more than 220 tonnes of cocaine were seized at the entrance to the European Union (EU). Balkan drug cartels are involved in this drug's distribution and, of course, such goods always find their way here,'' Petkovic added.

"Arrivals at Zagreb's Vrapce Psychiatric Clinic increased by 20 percent"

The consequences of coexistence with the novel coronavirus, the restrictions and economic uncertainty were also felt in the largest and oldest Croatian psychiatric clinic. Medical help for mental illness is being sought much more than before the coronavirus crisis struck - both in younger people and in adults, regardless of their age.

“The number of visits to our outpatient treatment systems has increased by 20 percent. In the hospital itself, it hasn't been so high. In that sense, we had an increase in the number of those people who have never been treated for psychological issues before,'' said Dr. sc. Petrana Brecic, the director of the Vrapce Psychiatric Clinic in Zagreb.

''Everything that didn't bother these people before is now a source of dissatisfaction. People have become very frustrated, scared, they're lose strengthing, will and energy. This is too difficult a crisis for us and we're constantly thinking - what are we going to do, how we will do it, how will things be? It's completely normal on a cognitive level, but we're emotionally exhausted,'' concluded Brecic.

For more, make sure to follow our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Coronavirus Pandemic Affects Students’ Mental Health, Survey Shows

ZAGREB, 17 Oct, 2021 - The coronavirus pandemic has affected the mental health of students, but it has also raised awareness of the importance of social contacts and in-person classes, a survey has shown.

The survey was carried out by the Agency for Science and Higher Education (AZVO) from 2 to 12 September, covering nearly 4,300 university students at all levels from across Croatia. Postgraduate students were asked to complete e-questionnaires.

The survey has revealed that direct contacts have no alternative, which is why it is important to return to face-to-face classes while at the same time complying with the epidemiological measures for the duration of the pandemic, AZVO's acting director Jasmina Havranek said.

In the last academic year, the majority of classes (40%) were taught only online, with 49% of senior graduates and 29% of first-year undergraduates attending such classes. 63% of freshmen said that they did not gain a full experience of studying because of the pandemic.

Over 35% of respondents cited classroom learning as the desired form of learning in the current academic year, while 29% said they preferred online classes.

As for vaccination against COVID-19, 60% of those interviewed said they would not support mandatory vaccination for students and faculty, while 25% said they would.

The survey revealed a considerable level of dissatisfaction among students with their lives compared with the pre-pandemic period, with 59% of them saying they were much less satisfied. Part-time students were more satisfied than their full-time colleagues.

The pandemic has also undermined the sense of belonging to the student community as 73% of students said they did not have a chance to meet new people as before. In post-pandemic life, the majority of students (71%) are looking forward to socialising with their colleagues without restrictions, and as many of them are looking forward to not having to wear face masks.

As many as 52% of students perceived their mental health as being worse or much worse than it was before the pandemic. Students were mostly concerned about the possibility of their infecting people close to them with coronavirus (57%), while they were least concerned about themselves getting infected (17%).

During the last academic year, 50% of students experienced social isolation and loneliness, and as many said they had trouble with their attention span and concentration. 46% felt anxious and 29% depressed, 43% used social networks in an unhealthy way, 32% expressed an interest in in-person counselling, while a quarter of them said they felt much better than before the pandemic.

For more on COVID-19, follow TCN"s dedicated page.

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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.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Rights Groups: Croatia Breaking Its Promise On Disability Rights

Oct. 10, 2018 — A trip to a psychiatric hospital coincides with human rights organizations decrying Croatia’s habit of cordoning off the mentally ill.