Mental Health in SloveniaSlovenia has made notable efforts to alleviate mental health difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially remarkable considering the Slovenian government’s substantial battle in improving mental health in Slovenia over the past two decades.

Mental Health in Slovenia

In 2006, an HBSC survey provided some insight into the extent to which the population was coping with mental health difficulties. Notably, of girls aged 11-15, “only 39% estimated their mental health as excellent” while the percentage among boys of the same age was higher at 53%. Additionally concerning is that 16% of girls and 12% of boys surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with their lives. A more recent WHO-conducted Mental Health Atlas Country Profile report also sparks concerns as the WHO official estimate of Slovenia’s burden of mental disorders in 2014 is noteworthy. Particularly concerning is the fact that the figure of disability-adjusted life years due to mental disorders was 4.3 years and the age-standardized suicide rate was 12.4 suicides per 100,000 people.

Connection to Poverty

Slovenia’s fight to improve its population’s mental health cannot be disconnected from the issue of poverty, especially when it comes to mental health among adolescents. The evidence that best demonstrates this link to poverty comes from a 2014 mental health inequalities study. The principal finding was that adolescents in lower socioeconomic standings display poorer mental health outcomes than those in higher socioeconomic positions.

The study also demonstrates that the connection to poverty goes further, with results showing that the adolescent perception of an impoverished familial financial position will both decrease their “life satisfaction” and increase the risk of the adolescent enduring mental health problems. These extensive facts and figures demonstrate that mental health in Slovenia also constitutes a poverty issue and is representative of the byproducts of wealth inequalities.

Slovenia’s Past Mental Health Efforts

During the past two decades prior to the pandemic, Slovenia’s government progressively increased its commitment to addressing mental health in Slovenia with several services from newly formed institutions and programs. One of the nation’s key initiatives was outlining principal aims to strive for in its Programme for Children and Youth 2006-2016, which included ensuring children and young adults live a healthy life.

This involved not only improving the mental health of those targeted but also improving their financial and nutritional stability. Another massive initiative launched was a significant extension of the Slovene Network of Health Promoting Schools (SNHPS) in 1998 and 2008 to include more than 130 schools. The strategy aimed to promote health at schools in a more holistic manner and place greater emphasis on mental health. In addition, in recent years, the number of mental health-related seminars in school settings has also increased.

But, the country’s most notable act addressing mental health was the establishment in 2002 of health promotion centers (HPCs) within all of the country’s 61 primary healthcare centers. These HPCs function as the first-contact providers of mental health promotion services to the country’s population, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Current Services and Solutions

Amid a global health pandemic with devastating effects on mental health in Slovenia, the Slovenian government is doing commendably in weathering the storm. At the height of the pandemic, 43 HPCs reported almost 1,500 telephonic calls between March 16 and May 24, 2020, with 67.4% of these calls stemming from “the psychological impact” of COVID-19. These statistics highlight the extent to which the pandemic exacerbated mental health conditions in the country.

Additionally, as the majority of the calls came from families and individuals with low incomes,  it is clear that the pandemic disproportionately impacts the impoverished. The brilliant work of HPCs, however, proved instrumental in minimizing the damage. Due to their phenomenal support, by the end of May 2020, calls to HPCs declined to a tenth of the number of calls made during the height of the pandemic two months before.

Another group that has done exceptional work in mitigating the country’s mental health difficulties during the pandemic is the Community Health Centre (CHC) Ljubljana. The WHO has praised CHC Ljubljana for its provision of strong primary mental health support during the pandemic, while also conducting research and development to ensure similar quality care is given long-term after the pandemic’s end. The CHC’s efforts include marginalized communities that are often overlooked in emergency relief efforts.

Overall, Slovenia is making significant efforts to address mental health afflictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of improving mental health in Slovenia as a whole.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Mental health awarenessMental health is an issue that, until recently, people shied away from talking about. While it can be a sensitive topic for people, it is one that society needs to talk about. By discussing mental health, people can help raise awareness of the issue. Celebrities are known to have an influence on their fans, so when they speak about a cause they care about, people tend to listen. Here are a few celebrities who are known mental health awareness advocates.

5 Celebrities Advocating for Mental Health Awareness

  1. Demi Lovato. Actor and singer Demi Lovato has frequently spoken about their struggles with mental illness. Lovato has been a mental health activist since 2015 when they revealed they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Wanting to help others struggling with mental illness, Lovato started the Mental Health Fund, which provides people with free counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic. In society, asking for help can be seen as a weakness. Lovato believes otherwise. In an interview with Deseret News, Lovato said, “The strongest thing someone can do is take that first step in getting help, whatever shape or form that is.” This charity raises money for the Crisis Text Line and crisis counseling options in Canada and the United Kingdom. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the public’s mental health so organizations like these have a significant impact on society.
  2. Kristen Bell. Actress Kristen Bell is a longtime and well-known advocate of mental health awareness. Fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness, Bell believes mental health check-ins should be as common as going to the dentist or doctor. Bell has struggled with depression and has spoken about why mental health screenings should be taken more seriously. There are often stereotypes surrounding depression, but like Bell said in an interview with NAMI, “You can’t tell someone has depression just by looking at them, especially since it’s such an internal battle.” With celebrities like Bell speaking about their own struggles with mental illness, fans will better see that there is no shame in asking for help.
  3. Simone Biles. Simone Biles is the most awarded gymnast in history. The Olympian also has her own battles with mental illness. Biles goes to therapy on a regular basis and takes anxiety medication. These revelations arose after Biles stood up as a survivor of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Victims of sexual assault have an increased risk of developing PTSD, depression and anxiety. In 2017, Biles partnered with the #BeUnderstood campaign, which advocated for learning disabilities and ADHD awareness during the month of October. Biles has also spoken out about her experience with ADHD.
  4. Chyler Leigh. Chyler Leigh, known for her roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Supergirl, has not shied away from sharing her experiences with bipolar disorder. As the new face for the Be Vocal: Speak Up campaign, Leigh shared her experiences of growing up without a diagnosis. Leigh says that she did not have an environment where she could speak up, so she kept quiet. She also spoke about self-medicating with alcohol and the struggle she went through with getting help. Joining Be Vocal was a way of opening up to the public. By sharing her story, Leigh hoped for people to hear her experience and relate, knowing that they are not alone in feeling that way.
  5. Justin Bieber. In his YouTube docuseries “Seasons,” Justin Bieber gave his fans an inside look at his struggles with addiction and mental health challenges. His addiction to marijuana became so serious that he became dependent on it. He also spoke about his use of stronger substances like MDMA or hallucinogenic mushrooms. Bieber got help and replaced illegal substances with antidepressants. In his efforts to help advocate for mental health, Bieber gave a fan $100,000 to support her career in social work. Part of the donation helped the fan attend grad school while the rest of it went to Active Minds, an organization that raises mental health awareness for college students.

Global Mental Health

Though raising mental health awareness domestically is essential, there are many people without access to proper mental healthcare globally. As of 2016, high-income nations spent around 5% of their health budgets on mental health. For lower-middle-class nations, that number fell to less than 2%. There are fewer trained psychiatrists in developing countries, which makes it hard to address everyone’s illnesses.

In Indonesia, there was one psychiatrist for every 350,000 people. Haiti, a country with roughly 10 million people, has only about “10 licensed psychiatrists.” Without the proper funding, developing countries struggle to make mental health a priority.

Spreading Awareness

Mental health issues are very common in society, but they often do not spark the necessary discussion. Part of this reason is because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Everyone is capable of contributing to mental health awareness. By posting about mental health on social media, donating to mental health organizations or supporting people with resources, an ordinary individual can contribute to improving mental health globally.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in IranAs the virus rapidly spread across countries, COVID-19 turned the whole world upside down. This inevitably brought many changes to people’s lives, from social interactions and daily activities to health concerns and working habits. The pandemic also heavily affected Iran. According to the Middle East Institute, the unemployment rate rose from 20% to 35% just a few months after the outbreak, providing some insight into the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Iran.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Iran

The Iranian government has implemented several COVID-19 restrictions. According to Medical Press, the latest policies included the closure of non-essential shops, government buildings and banks. In addition, Iran implemented travel bans and the closure of some businesses to slow down the spread of the virus.

The pandemic has exacerbated Iran’s economic crisis and saturated its health system, with daily cases reaching a record of 39,600 as of August 8, 2021. With thousands of deaths and a declining economy due to government restrictions, many people experienced anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues. As the Mental Health Foundation states, “Poverty increases the risk of mental health problems and can be both a causal factor and a consequence of mental” illness.

Government restrictions, along with the other effects of the pandemic in the country, inevitably had an impact on people’s well-being. An International Journal of Mental Health Systems study showed that, during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Iranian population faced a significant mental health problem. In fact, about 15.1% and 20.1% of the general Iranian population, respectively males and females, experienced significant anxiety and depressive symptoms.

The numbers that emerged from the study show evident mental health impacts affecting a large portion of the population. However, the country might find some hope thanks to the Iranian government’s response.

Iran’s Response Plan

In this context, the Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education of the Islamic Republic of Iran established a plan to provide essential services for mental health, such as consultation support. The Ministry first implemented an assessment to determine the needs of Iran’s population regarding mental health and what the mental health system would need in the case of finances and infrastructure.

The identification of the population’s needs following the assessment resulted in the creation of training programs for mental care staff to best support the population. It also led to the implementation of several measures that prioritized the issues emerging from the collected data. Three weeks after the first outbreak of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education created a helpline across the national territory so that Iranians could have access to the essential services that mental health professionals provide. In the first nine months, the helpline received an average of 5,130 calls daily.

In addition, the government launched programs focusing on the well-being and mental state of COVID-19 survivors, such as psychological counseling sessions to support citizens facing mental repercussions after contracting the virus and people enduring significant losses due to the pandemic.

Mental Health Services in Iran and Digitalization

The pandemic inevitably led to great transformations, which include accelerating digitalization throughout the world. In Iran, mental health services reflected this change as these services adapted to meet social distancing policies. These services are, in fact, remote as well. In collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the government developed a virtual platform that guarantees easier access to psychological support and mental health care. The government established the platform along with the helpline, in order to support those in need of deeper psychiatric mental care and people with significant anxiety and depression issues.

To recover from the COVID-19 crisis, mental health interventions are important. As a World Health Organization (WHO) report states, “Previous experiences from other crises have confirmed that timely mental health intervention is critical for medical staff caring for patients, in this case, those affected by COVID-19.” Mental health issues can, in fact, significantly affect the confidence and skills of medical staff. In addition to the physical impacts of COVID-19, the mental conditions fueled by poverty in Iran require addressing to ensure the well-being of Iranian citizens across the country.

The implementation of a series of policies focusing on mental health in Iran reflects a positive move toward an efficient and steady recovery from the pandemic’s social and economic crisis. Through continued work, measures could reduce the overall impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Iran.

– Arianna Pappone
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health In Israel
Emm Roy once stated that when a person has a mental illness, “People assume you aren’t sick unless they see the sickness on your skin like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.” In Israel, people associate much negative stigma with mental illness for this very reason. The most significant barriers in the fight to aid mental health in Israel include shame and stigma in communities.

Anxiety and Depression During the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in February 2020, statistics showed a significant increase in anxiety and depression rates in Israel. A study published in June 2020 found that “only a small percentage of the sample received mental health care from a professional, with native-born Israelis less likely than recent immigrants to receive such care.” To learn more about people’s hesitance to receive help, the Mental Health Services at the Ministry of Health conducted a study to examine these attitudes.

This study on mental health in Israel discovered that while the public may be open to receiving psychiatric treatment, the stigma that many associate with such therapies discourages them from getting the help they need. Approximately one-third of respondents do not know if they have access to a mental health clinic in their area. Additionally, the study showed that people do not want to enter a psychiatric hospital when they have mental illness issues; they would rather go to a psychiatric ward in a general hospital. Meanwhile, the study showed that individuals who do not experience mental health difficulties often express feelings of fear.

Mental Health in Israel’s Workforce

The stigma surrounding mental health exists in Israel’s workforce as well. About 52% of the people questioned stated that “they would not hire a person with a psychiatric illness.” Additionally, roughly 35% of these respondents would be unwilling to work with someone with mental health issues and 31% felt unprepared to have a coworker with similar difficulties.

Eliminating Mental Health Stigma

The stigma that many attach to mental illness in Israel stems from a lack of understanding and education. Because mental illness may not manifest physically, when people see an individual acting strangely or unusually, they tend to fear what they cannot see.

To help establish a culture of acceptance in Israel, in February 2021, the Jerusalem College of Technology partnered with McLean Hospital “to localize and adapt McLean’s award-winning campaign, Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes About Mental Health.” With this project, students at JCT will attend seminars that share research on the stigma surrounding mental health and allow students to speak to individuals who are suffering from mental illness.

After undergoing this education, the students will then share the knowledge they have received with different communities throughout Israel and break the stereotypes surrounding mental health in Israel. McLean Hospital’s program teaches people to have empathy for others and encourages open discussion on a traditionally taboo subject. Most importantly, its efforts are showing individuals who are currently suffering from mental illness that they no longer have to suffer in silence.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Saudi Arabia
Mental health in Saudi Arabia is an urgent concern for the Kingdom’s government. Nearly one-fifth of those seeking healthcare assistance show signs of mental health challenges. In some areas, almost half of the population is in need of mental healthcare services. The government recognizes its shortcomings and is taking steps to reduce such numbers and serve the needs of its citizens.

Reducing Stigma

The stigmatization of mental health in Saudi Arabia is slowly decreasing. In past years, many Saudi Arabians have been ashamed to seek mental health treatment. Many frowned upon therapy as they considered mental illness a sign of weakness.

In a 2016 study to measure the rate of depression in the country, 14.3% of prospective participants declined for the reason that the survey was about mental health. When seeking therapy sessions, many patients were afraid to show their faces. These sentiments have left mental health conditions untreated, leading to economic challenges and causing individuals to fall into poverty.

In the past few years, the younger generation has stepped up and taken a stand in favor of mental healthcare. The attitude towards mental health is changing due to a variety of factors including upbringing and the awareness that is spreading throughout the nation. Both the Internet and contact with patients who suffer from mental conditions serve to increase awareness and confidence towards mental health. Now, when attending therapy sessions, many young Saudi Arabians are unafraid to show their identity.

Improving Mental Healthcare Services

The government began improving mental healthcare services in 1983. In an effort to address the country’s mental health crisis, the Saudi Arabian government created the General Department for Mental and Social Health (GDMSH) in 1983. The Department has the task of improving access to and the quality of mental healthcare throughout the nation.

Primary healthcare centers (PHCs) became available with the purpose of opening up these services to Saudi Arabian citizens. Additionally, GDMSH uses the First National Strategic Plan to modernize psychiatric facilities and provide well-trained staff for mental healthcare institutions. Maintaining the privacy of individuals who seek therapy became an issue left for the GDMSH to resolve. In response, the GDMSH has been working to protect the rights of each patient in the mental healthcare system.

Mental Health Law

In 2014, Saudi Arabia established a mental health law. The government sought out assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) to compile data on the state of mental health services in the country. Saudi Arabia converted its findings into legislation with the passing of the Mental Health Law.

The law incorporates many parts of WHO’s United Nations Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care. It provides a clear definition of mental health and emphasizes the need to seek voluntary mental healthcare rather than involuntary. It outlines special cases when involuntary healthcare may become used.

The law also adheres to the Saudi Arabian custom of involving family in all healthcare matters. Patients and their relatives receive information on how their rights will undergo maintenance throughout the treatment process. Should the treatment breach patients’ rights, they will have the entitlement to bring their case to court with a lawyer to represent them. The law remains dedicated to maintaining security throughout the treatment process.

Moving Forward

Saudi Arabia has made great steps towards improving its mental healthcare. Today, the nation has a 55% ratio of psychiatric nurses to overall mental healthcare professionals, which is 37% higher than that of most developed countries.

Additionally, through the GDMSH’s efforts to improve the quality of mental healthcare, the country has a ratio of 18.4 beds to 100,000 citizens. The amount of beds is greater than the number of therapy appointments, which is a goal that many developed countries hope to achieve. The nation has more progress to make in its mental health journey, but Saudi Arabia is on the right track.

Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Denmark
Every year on March 20, the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network publishes the World Happiness Report. The report assesses the state of happiness in 156 countries, acquiring data through quantitative surveys and research. The report considers GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support, trust and corruption, perceived freedom to make life decisions and generosity. Based on these metrics, Denmark has consistently ranked in the top 10 happiest countries in the world for the last nine years. Naturally, this has prompted the world to take a closer look at what contributes to such positive mental health in Denmark.

Robust Social Security and Social Welfare

It is no secret that the Danish income tax rate is one of the highest in the world. The income tax rate for the average Dane earning $43,000 is 45% and increases to 52% for those earning $67,000 or more. However, a Gallup survey conducted in 2014 found that almost 90% of Danes are happy to pay their taxes. This is because the high tax rate translates into improved societal welfare. For instance, Denmark provides free healthcare to all and education is also free, even at the tertiary level.

The Importance of a Work-life Balance

The Danes recognize that time affluence is a vital prerequisite for happiness. As such, Danes generally only work an average of 37 hours spread across five days. This arrangement provides them with ample leisure time to pursue hobbies or spend time with friends and family. Moreover, many treat mental health in Denmark with the same seriousness as physiological health in the workplace. Employees take “stress leave” to avoid burnout and people impacted by job losses receive generous unemployment benefits from the government.

The Philosophy of Hygge

The most common translation of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a sense of coziness or comfort. It is the ethos of the Danish lifestyle and emphasizes taking pleasure in simple things. During the bleak winters, the Danes take up hygge practices such as playing a board game with friends or reading a book with a cup of hot chocolate. According to A.K. Pradeep, author of “The Buying Brain,” hygge encourages activities that minimize stress and create comfort to boost serotonin production. Consequently, the incorporation of hygge into everyday life reduces stress levels and helps with depression. This greatly improves the quality of mental health in Denmark.

Tackling Mental Health Issues in Denmark

By no means should one construe these aspects of life in Denmark as an absence of mental health issues. In fact, estimates suggest that 38% of Danish women and 32% of Danish men will receive professional help for mental health issues at some moment in their lifetime. While the causes for suicide and mental health illnesses in Denmark are nuanced, with regard to the mental health of young people, the high demands and pressures of today’s world contribute to anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, the suicide rate in Denmark has now plateaued at 11.4 per 100,000 since 2007. This translates to an average of 600 suicides per year, with experts in suicidal behavior acknowledging the government’s ability to do more to address the issue.

However, Denmark is not the only Nordic country celebrated for the happiness of its citizens yet struggling to make further inroads into suicide prevention. For example, in Finland, an estimated 750 Finns commit suicide every year. This is despite extensive national suicide strategies that have managed to bring down the suicide rate by more than 50% in the last 30 years.

Creating Change

Fortunately, organizations have met these staggering statistics with a determination to improve the mental health situation in Denmark. One such organization is ONE OF US. Founded in 2011, ONE OF US aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in Denmark, addressing social exclusion and encouraging individuals to seek treatment. The organization accomplishes this through its nationwide campaigns.

These efforts consist of activities and workshops to educate the public on mental health issues. Workshops also aim to teach individuals how to support people struggling with mental illness. For instance, with the youth as one of its focus areas, the organization makes presentations at educational institutions with a youth ambassador. The ambassador shares his/her experience with mental health issues and gives guidance on how to overcome these hurdles.

Although happiness is a factor that fluctuates, Denmark does its best to prioritize the integral aspects that contribute to overall happiness. The happiness rate in Denmark is a significant source of pride for former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who believes in a model of “governance for happiness,” especially during trying times. Mental health in Denmark plays an important role in overall happiness and the country aims to continue prioritizing it.

Vyas Nageswaran
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Bangladesh
Out of the entire Bangladeshi population, 4% of people suffer from depression. This statistic trails just around 2% behind the world’s most depressed country, Ukraine, with 6.3% of its population suffering from depression. The government, with the assistance of organizations, is taking positive action to address mental health in Bangladesh.

Mental Health in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, there are only 270 psychiatrists and roughly 500 psychologists serving a population of more than 166 million. This equates to 216,000 people per specialist. Most mental health professionals are located in urban areas so people in rural areas have limited access to mental health services. Furthermore, the country’s one government-run mental hospital has only 500 beds. Mental health also has limited funding. Only 0.44% of the government health budget is allocated to the mental health sector.

Mental Health Stressors

Foreign and domestic stressors can contribute to the decline of mental health. For example, recurring natural disasters, the current refugee crisis and overpopulation all affect the mental states of the Bangladeshi population. The country faces recurring floods, tornados and cyclones. A 1996 infamous tornado left 66.6% of its victims psychologically traumatized and in need of emergency psychological assistance. This statistic illustrates the severe psychological effects of natural disasters and the need for more mental health resources.

Since 2007, Bangladesh has taken in nearly 1 million refugees from Myanmar following a military crackdown on Rohingya citizens. This upsurge in population weakened the country’s already limited capacity to respond to both regional disasters and mental health crises. Many of these refugees experienced acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, requiring immediate health assistance. This spur in overpopulation certainly strains resources, exacerbating mental health even further.

Mental Health Stigma in Bangladesh

An estimated 10,000 Bangladeshi people die by suicide annually. However, households and the greater public are reluctant to speak out about mental health problems in fear of societal judgment. Mental health stigma is common throughout Bangladesh and there are many superstitions surrounding mental health conditions. Some believe that evil spirits cause mental health issues.

Others often ostracize people suffering from mental health conditions, leading others to hide their mental struggles and suffer in silence without help. Some people turn to traditional healers for cures. These traditional practices sometimes amount to human rights abuses and may have fatal repercussions. Traditional healers are more prevalent in the countryside where a trained mental health specialist is hard to come by. In rural areas, “village doctors with no formal training provide 65% of healthcare.”

The Good News

Bangladesh passed a new Mental Health Act in 2018, replacing a 105-year-old piece of legislation. The act aims to protect the property rights of those suffering from mental illness and includes provisions for mental health services. However, the act does not address the issue of low mental health funding, which plays an important role in increasing mental health resources. While the act faces some criticism, increased attention on mental health through legislative action is an accomplishment nonetheless.

Bangladesh finalized its National Mental Health Strategic Plan in 2020 and started implementation. In support of this plan, the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health provides assistance to the Ministry of Health in Bangladesh to ensure the effective implementation of the strategy.

Bangladesh is taking concrete action to address mental health in the country. With commitment and support, mental health in Bangladesh can improve.

Caroline Bersch
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Finland
The United Nations has ranked Finland as one of the happiest countries on earth for the last eight years. Praised around the world for its low inequality, high employment rate, successful education system and overall high living standards, it is hard to believe that poor mental health is something that plagues the small Nordic country. Here is some information about mental health in Finland.

Mental Health in Finland

Mental illness affects roughly one in every five Finnish people. This is higher than the European average and has a particular effect on the country’s younger population. Due to the country’s global reputation as the happiest country on earth, young people feel less inclined to speak up about their struggles, some even feel that their struggles are invalid due to where they live.

Mental health in Finland is not a new issue. The country dealt with dramatically high suicide rates in the 80s and 90s. This led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Project in 1986. The Project focused on preventing suicide by strengthening mental health services throughout the country, educating the media on reporting suicides and improving public conversation on mental health. The project was extremely successful as the country’s suicide rates decreased by 50% since 1990.

Although the country’s approach to mental health improved over the last four decades, people in Finland continue to suffer. Fear of stigmatization regarding mental health is increasing as others continue to paint the country as the land of no worries. Officials recognize this growing issue and have proposed a new Suicide Prevention Plan for 2020-2030. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare partnered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to create a list of objectives for the coming decade. Here is a list of its objectives.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s List of Objectives

  1. Raising Awareness: The Finnish government aims to raise awareness about mental health and improve public dialogue by training community members to break down prejudices and provide suicide prevention education to the general public. Trained community members would include teachers, police officers, social workers, school counselors, youth workers, pastors and more.
  2. Reduced Accessibility to Means of Suicide: This objective includes improved planning of infrastructure including buildings, bridges and railways to include suicide preventative architecture. This objective also focuses on creating regulation for the storage of toxic substances, prescription drugs and firearms.
  3. Early Intervention: The Finnish government has put particular emphasis on the importance of addressing mental health during the early stages. This objective focuses on improving telephone helplines to be more inclusive. It also will create online help-centers and offer better educational support to those experiencing non-emergency effects of mental illness.
  4. Inclusivity for High-Risk Groups: This objective aims to create suicide prevention programs that are specific to high-risk groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, those living in poverty, asylum seekers, indigenous people, those suffering from substance abuse and victims of violence. The goal is to make individuals feel heard instead of creating blanketed campaigns that do not address any specific issues.
  5. Improved care options. This objective focuses on Finland’s healthcare system and the care options given to those suffering from mental illness. This includes advancements in online outreach programs and training for healthcare providers to identify signs of mental illness. Furthermore, it establishes emergency care for those at risk of committing suicide and assistance for families affected by suicide.

Mental health in Finland is a serious issue. It cannot afford to be brushed off by the reputation of the happiest country on earth. The Finnish Government does not wish to hide the country’s problems behind this title. It would rather live up to it. Through this new program, the people of Finland anticipate a more inclusive future and a public conversation that embraces the ups and downs of mental health instead of ignoring them.

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Ireland
According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Ireland is the second most developed country. The index ranks countries based on life expectancy, schooling and gross national income. However, the number of people with mental illness in Ireland is among the highest in Europe. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health in Ireland.

Pre-Pandemic Conditions

In 2016, records indicated that 18.5% of the Irish population had a mental health illness. In 2018, The Irish Times ran an article about the prevalence of mental health issues. The paper reported that mental health problems cost the Irish economy over €8.2 billion a year. This is equal to roughly $9.9 billion in the United States. The report stated that one in six individuals in Europe received a mental illness diagnosis in 2016 and that more than 84,000 deaths were due to mental illness or suicide in 2015.

Stigma has a vastly negative impact on mental illnesses in Ireland. Just like in many other countries, those with mental illness fear ridicule and isolation. This can delay people in getting the help they need. Although programs to try and lessen the stigma have been circulating over the years, stigma remains an issue that prevents those who need help from getting it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Mental Health in Ireland

An article from the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, published in May 2020, identified health needs that could occur and require addressing during four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic, the idea was that Ireland’s health system should prepare to address health needs that would emerge during the subsequent waves.

The article determined that during the second wave of the pandemic, people would not seek medical care due to a fear they would become infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people with non-serious conditions and preexisting mental health conditions held off from attending regularly scheduled appointments.

Estimates have determined that the fourth wave will be the largest and longest phase of the pandemic. It is not likely to peak until months after the other phases and could continue for months after COVID-19 infections start dropping. In this fourth wave, the healthcare industry could see many new mental illness cases. Indeed, these could involve those mourning COVID-19 losses, frontline workers under stress, COVID-19 survivors and more. There will also likely be many cases of relapse among those who already struggled with mental health illnesses before the pandemic.

In Ireland, the funding for mental health services has remained low, especially compared with other countries. Compared to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which both have 12% of the overall health budget allocated to mental health services, Ireland allocates roughly 6%. Investments and innovation are urgent to ensure that people do not overwhelm mental health services. Moreover, it is essential that professionals can respond accordingly when necessary. A survey of 195 psychiatrists in Ireland found that there was an increased number of referrals for anxiety disorders and depression as of 2021.

Solutions

Ireland added another €1 billion to the healthcare budget for 2020. This funding went toward extending free childcare and providing additional employment for therapists and nurses. The additional therapists could help curb the state of mental health in Ireland.

In addition, Ireland’s budget for 2021 includes another €4 billion for healthcare. Additionally, new mental health services will receive €38 million in funding. The plan will be for the enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programs and investment in peer support workers and employment supports.

Mental illness in Ireland is a pronounced issue to society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened it. The increase in funding for healthcare in the budget shows that the government has taken steps towards improving mental health services. It may take time to overcome the hurdles pertaining to mental health, but Ireland is making an effort.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Sri Lanka
The world is gaining understanding regarding the importance of mental health, with increasing awareness and acceptance of mental disorders. As society progresses and science advances, the realization frequently emerges that a greater need exists to address mental health as a contribution to total wellness for individuals. Sri Lanka, an island east of India in the Indian Ocean, has a population of about 20 million and one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Each year, mental health in Sri Lanka results in about 100,000 people attempting suicide and 6,000 losing their lives.

Mental Health Challenges in Conflict Scenarios

The topic of mental health in Sri Lanka includes the idea that a difference exists between mental health in normal times and mental health as a result of a conflict. Mental health issues are normal to have, occurring across every country and population for varying reasons, whether they be genetics, living conditions or stress triggers. On top of the mental health problems that exist in normal circumstances, it is necessary to address mental health issues that occur as a result of a conflict as well.

In 2009, Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war ended with a death toll of more than 70,000 and lasting health effects on its people. Such a destructive war left civilians and soldiers with lasting anxiety, PTSD and depression as a result of the violence they experienced. Along with negative effects on health as a result of war and conflict, the economy and financial abilities of the country suffered as well.

The Effects of The Indian Ocean Tsunami

Sri Lanka’s location as an island in the Indian Ocean makes it prone to natural disasters such as tsunamis. Around 35,000 Sri Lankans died as a result of The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, leaving hundreds of thousands of others injured and homeless. It also adversely affected their mental health.

This kind of event can leave civilians in a state of shock and anxiety, often resulting in disorders such as PTSD and depression following their losses. While the tsunami inflicted immense physical damage and mental illness, other countries provided support funding to reform Sri Lanka’s mental health system. Though the disaster has renewed the country’s attention to mental health, it has also left Sri Lankans with little to nothing in the way of resources or infrastructure.

The Necessity of Resources

Mental wellness requires adequate resources in order to successfully aid those in need. Basic mental health resources include psychiatrists, therapists and a facility or technology if no facilities exist. In Sri Lanka, estimates determined that only one psychiatrist exists for every 500,000 people. The urban areas of the country are war-torn and the rural areas are too far outside of the urban concentration, so resource availability for necessities such as facilities is quite limited.

Without trained staff and medical providers, it is hard to effectively address mental health needs and expectations. Additionally, without resources like facilities and funding, challenges exist that inhibit the ability to innovate the current mental health system to a higher standard.

Initiatives to Address Mental Health in Sri Lanka

In 1985, a group of individuals concerned about mental health issues formed the NGO called Nivahana Society of Kandy (NSK). NSK focuses on mental wellness improvement in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. In 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO) approved a proposal for a project called the Mental Health Policy and Service Development (MPS) Project on behalf of NSK, aiming to reduce the number of admissions/re-admissions to psychiatric hospitals and to establish supportive infrastructure.

Through the Mental Health Policy and Service Development (MPS) Project, the number of re-admissions to psychiatric hospitals decreased by 70% in the Western Province. This project is successful and also creates a strengthened network of psychiatric services among Central and Western Provinces, establishing new clinics and extending the range of reach for the project’s support.

The Sri Lankan government collaborates with the Sri Lankan National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to integrate mental health into primary care within the country. The effort began in 2009 with a training program for medical practitioners that are integrating mental health care into primary care plans.

The lack of resources and funding for mental health awareness projects tends to be the main obstacle to total mental wellness in Sri Lanka. Mental health in Sri Lanka remains a critical issue in healthcare that needs innovation. With initiatives from NGOs like NSK and the Sri Lankan NIMH collaborations with the government, Sri Lanka can make its way to mental wellness among its population.

– Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr