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As the demand for psychological services grows, more opportunities to take care of yourself are available

On 10 October, we celebrated World Mental Health Day. It was a reminder that the psychological health of the world's population is getting worse. The statistics for the Lithuanian population are not encouraging either - the results of the latest 2019 survey conducted by the Lithuanian Statistics Department revealed that as many as 18% of the population had experienced symptoms of depression in the two weeks before the survey. As the demand for mental health services grows rapidly, Lithuania is providing more and more access to mental health services for different members of society and aims to make mental health a part of everyday life.
"After 20 years of a fairly stable life, we have faced two challenges. The first was a pandemic that lasted almost 2 years. It caused a lot of anxiety, fear and uncertainty in society. Before the pandemic was over, war started, which triggers the same feelings, and then there are serious economic challenges, inflation. All these factors undoubtedly have a negative impact on the psychological state of society," says Dr Julius Neverauskas, a researcher and psychotherapist at Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU).
Psychological resilience - more relevant than ever
One of the most important things to do in a time of uncertainty is to build psychological resilience. This is the ability to cope with change, difficult life conditions and the stresses they bring.
According to Neverauskas, the challenges will continue for several years or even longer, so building psychological resilience would make a significant contribution to improving the psychological well-being of both children and adults.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, governments and public organisations have paid special attention to the psychological health of both the medical profession and society in general. I think this has helped. In the context of the war situation, I do not see any such initiatives yet, but it should be done," he comments.
Let's not ignore mental health hygiene
Mental health problems affect all areas of a person's life - learning or work performance, interpersonal relationships, and social participation. Often there is still shame in seeking psychological help, but if emotional difficulties are ignored, they can develop into mental health disorders such as depression or insomnia.
According to the Hygiene Institute's Health Information Centre, 43,909 people were diagnosed with a recurrent depressive episode in 2021, while the number of newly registered depressive episodes was 10,314 cases. According to Neverauskas, the stigma that people with psychological problems are inferior is decreasing, but some people still ignore their psychological health. "If you have anxiety, fear, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty coping with your emotions, problems in your relationships, and if this is affecting your day-to-day activities, you should seek professional help," urges the psychotherapist.
Increasing access to help
According to the WHO, more than 75% of people in lower and middle-income countries do not receive adequate treatment for psychological disorders. Neverauskas notes that the biggest challenges in Lithuania's mental health system today are also due to a lack of access to help.
"What is most lacking is better public education, the creation of structures for psychological support for children and adolescents, and wider access to psychotherapeutic help," says the expert.
Sandra Remeikienė, Head of the European Economic Area and Norway Programme Unit at Central Project Management Agency (CPMA) welcomes the fact that the implemented projects contribute to the provision of widely accessible mental health services to the population.
"Often, people are unable to access mental health professionals because of financial barriers. The pandemic years and the current war situation in Ukraine have brought many challenges, making access to such services more urgent than ever. We are now pleased to be able to offer family visitation services for families with children or newborns, a well-being advisors programme for all people experiencing emotional difficulties, and the Incredible Years programme, which helps parents to strengthen the bond with their children," comments Sandra Remeikienė.
According to Gytė Sirgedienė, Head of the International Project Management Unit of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, all the measures under the European Economic Area Health Programme 2014-2021 are focused on strengthening mental health, with a particular focus on children and young people and their families.
"The current measures of the programme are increasing the accessibility of mental health services to the population, and following the success of the projects and the adoption of their good practices, we expect to continue the provision of services by integrating them into the existing health system. The continued provision of these services would contribute significantly to the psychological resilience of society", says Sirgedienė.
About Health Programme:
The Health Programme in Lithuania aims to strengthen mental health services in communities and improve the well-being of children and young people. The programme's measures include the development of psychosocial support, youth-friendly health services, support for vulnerable children and young people, the establishment of one-stop help centres for children and families, training for parents through the Incredible Years programme, cooperation between families and health professionals, and the development of services and support for pregnant women, mothers giving birth, and mothers of children aged up to two years. In total, the Health Programme‘s budget for 2014-2021 is more than EUR 17.9 million. The implementation of the programme is administrated by the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA), the programme's partner is the Ministry of Health.
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