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Slovenia registers 8,000 hospitalizations of mental patients per year and three-fourths of that are repeat cases. Foto: Reuters

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The mental health of Slovenians – a political challenge as well

5. December 2017 ob 11:46
Ljubljana - MMC RTV SLO

"A Slovenian peculiarity is the extremely negative social stigma attached to everything connected to the functioning of the brain," psychiatrist Mojca Zvezdana Dernovšek tells MMC.

"The mental health of Slovenians is a big challenge for the country’s politics. We are currently at a breaking point, when some introduced programs have proven to be effective, but that is not enough – they have to become accessible to the whole population," adds Zvezdana Dernovšek. The Ministry of Health is well aware of that and has therefore prepared a national mental health program resolution for the next ten years, in the framework of which it intends to establish a network of mental health centres across the country for both adults and children.

In line with the resolution, the ministry will invest more in prevention programs and improve access to primary care specialists. In short, it will enable services closer to the homes of people and for people to receive help when they need it the most.

Transferring treatment to the local community
The above-mentioned resolution, which goes into public debate today, brings just that – transferring the treatment to local communities; redirecting funds and staff from the big institutions to local levels. The strategy envisages the establishment of a network of 20 mental health centres for children, youths and their families, and 20 mental health centres for adults. The centres will be located inside local hospitals and will start working in the year 2020. Multidisciplinary teams will be working at the centres.

"The working teams will be made up of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, nurses… They will closely cooperate with the personal physicians, social work centres and NGOs. They will be able to detect signs of distress in the community and respond in a timely manner," explains the ministry.

Investing in prevention pays off
At the same time the ministry stresses that investing in mental health does pay off, as mental illnesses usually take up three of four percent of the GDP. Individual prevention programs, according to a US study, make a return of 12,5 dollars for every invested one dollar. A similar ration is expected in Slovenia.

After the ten-year period, covered by the above-mentioned resolution, officials expect to meet the needs in this field, to decrease the stigmatization, provide help for people closer to their homes, have less sick leaves, and lower the number of repeat hospitalizations – Slovenia registers 8,000 hospitalizations of mental patients per year and three-fourths of that are repeat cases.

Milena Hrovat, Tina Hacler, MMC; translated by K. J.