Mental health should no longer be a taboo topic in the society

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) assesses that Montenegro should have a suicide prevention strategy, considering the high rate of suicide. The data of the Police Administration, which note that in the first quarter of this year 30 mostly young people took their own lives, are alarming and require urgent action by the experts and competent institutions that shape public health policies.

CCE reminds that Montenegro has been amongst countries with the highest rates of suicide in the world for years, and according to experts, this high number is accompanied by a much higher number of attempted suicides, which indicates a serious mental health crisis.

Suicide is a combination of the impact of various individual and social factors. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the already difficult socio-economic situation, the sense of uncertainty and insecurity, thus transferring social into numerous personal crises. We have previously lived in a society that lacks empathy, solidarity, accompanied by the low trust in institutions. A large number of citizens fail to cope with a collapsed and distorted value system, which represents factors that raise the level of risk to mental health and eventually the feeling of hopelessness that ends in suicide. In that regard, young people are particularly vulnerable but also neglected.

Suicide is not just an individual act but belongs to the domain of responsibility of the whole society, which should function as a preventive mechanism. Unfortunately, mental health problems are still a taboo topic in our country. Many people also give up the intention to ask for help because they are afraid of disapproval for their “weakness” in the family, at work, in the wider environment.

In this regard, the CCE considers that the mental health support system must be more developed and visible, and public health institutions must continuously work on devising measures to break the vicious circle of silent suffering and stigmatization. The strategic approach to prevention, in addition to public health institutions, should include an education system at an early age that will influence young people to understand the importance of mental health care and to overcome prejudices through which suicide is talked about and thought about. An effective strategy can provide easier and faster access to professional support in crises, investment in public information campaigns aimed at understanding the importance of mental health, empowering citizens to seek support and help, particularly targeted campaigns for groups at risk.

In the chain of prevention, the media also play an important role through educational reporting based on relevant sources, without sensationalism, with referrals to support services that can encourage vulnerable groups to seek help.

Finally, we can all contribute to creating an atmosphere and environment that is encouraging for someone who has a problem to share it with us, to work jointly find a way to overcome it.

Petar Đukanović, Programme Director