They face the inaccessibility of care in all countries. Young people need to be taught how to maintain mental health, says Winkler

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The director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Petr Winkler, was a guest on the ČT24 Interview program (source: ČT24)

Roughly a third of ninth-graders struggle with anxiety, and up to 40 percent of them show signs of moderate or severe depression, experts from the National Institute of Mental Health found during the investigation. “The situation is alarming,” the director of the institution, Petr Winkler, emphasized in the ČT24 Interview. Professional help is also insufficient, child psychologists and psychiatrists have been meeting for a long time in the Czech Republic, he added. Therefore, according to him, the prevention system should work well.

According to Winkler, the situation worsened primarily in connection with the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic and related restrictive measures. From those, people “did not fully recover, because they were followed by other social situations – the war in Ukraine, the economic crisis (…) and the great uncertainty that now prevails in the world”.

Covid-19 has meant an increase in mental health problems in the population, he claims. People then started to be more sensitive in this context. “Our surveys show – among other things – that they have become much more aware that there are people in their immediate social environment who have problems in the field of mental health, or that they themselves are able to admit those problems,” he describes.

At that time, restrictive measures aimed at limiting social contact also proved to be a social challenge. “Which is a very risk factor for developing mental problems. Loneliness is one of the most difficult factors contributing to the problems of a section of the population,” he pointed out.

“We see throughout our circle of civilization that there is a crisis in the field of children’s mental health and that they are faced with the unavailability of care in basically all countries,” Winkler emphasized. The conditions for mental health as such are said to be very demanding. “On the other hand, it doesn’t quite match how we approach it,” he points out.

Accelerating life

According to him, people’s mental health can also be affected by accelerating globalization and the related interlinking of cultures, or greater influence by social media.

“We should respond to this adequately and equip young people in particular with the knowledge and skills to understand themselves, how to treat themselves, and thus cope healthily with the stressors that affect everyone,” he noted. At the same time, according to Winkler, the impact of the globalization of society was essential for the quality of life not only for young people, but for society as a whole.

Lack of qualified professionals

“Mental health care should not rest only on specialized workers, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, because there will never be enough of them to be able to meet the demand alone,” he says. He pointed out the necessity of the functioning of the prevention system, for example on the part of teachers and pedagogical staff.

According to Winkler, schools with a problem “definitely have” the desire to do something, the ministry also supports it. “Teachers encounter this every day in practice, they see the effect it has on the atmosphere in the classroom, on grades and other things,” he added, adding that he also feels support from parents.

It is said that it is not realistic to assume that we would be able to produce more child psychologists, psychiatrists and other specialized professions. “It takes an extremely long time, plus a large part of these professionals are of retirement age, we will be happy if we can maintain that intergenerational change,” he concluded.

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