The history of Romania represents the bloodiest regime change in Eastern Europe in 1989. The Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife got executed. And the transition between governments was the most violent in the whole Eastern region. Romania’s past plays a huge role in the current situation of mental health issues in the country. Its population had been suffering from collective trauma, depression and the absence of food and free speech for decades. The country has the highest poverty rate in the E.U., with almost 5 million people living on less than $5.50 per day. Social seclusion of poor people and inequality remain relatively high. Also, stigmas and traumas continue to increase the risk of mental health issues in the country.
More than a decade after Romanian Communism collapsed, psychiatrists made the government aware of the rising rates of suicide and the extension of mental health disorders in the population. In 2005, Romania had 1,300 psychiatrists for 22 million citizens, representing a major deficit of specialists.
The Opinions of Psychiatrists
Romania has a frightening 1% of people having mental disorders, and there are new cases coming along, as children whose families work abroad also struggle with their psychological health.
Recent studies detail the most frequent of the following mental illnesses: conduct disorders (24.19%), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (22.65%), anxiety disorders (19.23%), autism spectrum disorders (14.47%), depressive episodes (9.14%) and attachment disorders (4.3%). Teenage pregnancy (children aged 10-14 years) is more than eight times higher than the E.U. average. Unfortunately, many schools do not have mental health programs. The case is alarming among adults as well, with several affected people not seeking professional help.
Research from years ago revealed that the Romanian mental health care system had 86% fewer social assistant employees than the official requirement. Professionals highlighted numbing facts, revealing that the competence of psychological workers is inadequate. They also mentioned that social assistants received inadequate salaries and training. There was also a shortage of psychologists, with about 60% less than required. According to researchers, 200,000 Romanians had been suffering from severe mental issues.
Ongoing Efforts and Signs of Progress
The Council of Europe has put a plan into action with a two-year project to affirm Romania’s mental health care in prisons, and this includes an increase in medical staff. It started in January 2022, alongside major financial support until the end of 2023.
The Romanian Ministry of Health has set a mental health strategy as a national program in Transylvania. This includes efforts that aim to protect separated and vulnerable children. It also highlights school education as an important role in the progression. Older people are getting available treatments and services, and social exclusion and poverty are being countered by a national plan in an effort to expunge stigmas from Romanian society.
Despite the challenges stemming from Romania’s turbulent history and the current mental health issues it faces, there are signs of progress and ongoing efforts to address the situation. Initiatives such as the Council of Europe’s project to improve mental health care in prisons and the national mental health strategy set by the Romanian Ministry of Health are steps in the right direction. These efforts aim to provide better access to services, educate the public and combat social exclusion and stigmas, offering hope for a brighter future in mental health care in Romania.
– Klaudia Laura Sebestyen