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Inter-ministerial cooperation is important in the field of mental health

On the occasion of today’s World Mental Health Day, the Ministry of Health organised an expert meeting, 'Day of Mental Health', at the Brdo Congress Centre. In the initial part of the meeting, the attendees were addressed by the Minister of Health, Danijel Bešič Loredan, and the Human Rights Ombudsman, Peter Svetina, who presented the challenges of mental health.

The Minister of Health initially highlighted that more attention must be paid to the mental health of Slovenians, "If one suffers a stroke or a cardiac arrest, one is taken to a hospital and treated immediately. But if one suffers from mental problems, they unfortunately come last," is how he vividly described the present situation and emphasised that the current composition of the Ministry of Health and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia are aware of the importance of mental health. To this end, a division for mental health and dementia will be established within the Ministry this year. This will be responsible for dealing with the tasks and challenges in the field of mental health.

Ombudsman Svetina said, "We encounter unequal treatment of patients with psychiatric issues. I frequently point out that the conditions in this field have not yet been regulated. This is especially true of the closed hospital wards where patients’ certain basic rights are also frequently violated."

In the second part of the meeting, Marija Anderluh, specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, spoke about the fact that mental disorders in young people are increasing at an alarming rate, not only in Slovenia, but at the global level. "The pandemic drastically worsened these problems. As per 2019, the number of referrals for the first examination regarding mental health for girls increased by more than 100 per cent," she highlighted.

Vesna Švab, specialist in psychiatry, stressed that many older people feel that the treatment of their mental disorders is at a very low level. "This is frequently linked with physical disabilities, which unfortunately leads to the fact that people with mental disorders live up to 20 years less," Švab said.

However, psychologist Robert Masten presented possible solutions. "Mental wellbeing is a quality of the community and not of an individual. Improvement in mental health correlated with a 67-per cent improvement, while the worsening correlated with a fivefold increase in depression. We must know that even small things matter. It is vital, for example, to create a suitable working environment and encourage a sense of usefulness. But, of course, we cannot overlook the general situation in society," Masten highlighted.

Psychotherapist, Dr Urška Battelino, stressed that patients find it difficult to acquire psychotherapy that they pay for themselves, while there is a great lack of psychotherapists for adolescents. Matej Vinko, Deputy Head of the MIRA Programme, from the National Institute of Public Health, presented the Resolution on the National Mental Health Programme 2018−2028 (MIRA), and Mojca Zvezdana Dernovšek, specialist in psychiatry, presented the Ministry’s plans and anticipated the amending of the Mental Health Act and the adoption of the act on psychotherapy and psychological activities in 2023.