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More young people in Slovakia are suffering from anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems. The figure has quintupled in the last seven years.
Civic association IPčko launched its first online mental health helpline to support the youth in 2012. The organisation helped young Slovaks 5,291 times in 2013. The figure rose to 24,498 in 2019.
“Mental health is on the edge of [the state’s] interest,” psychologist and IPčko programme director Marek Madro told The Slovak Spectator. “We provide a very specific service, which is rarely included in the terms of grants.”
Loneliness and depression
IPčko helps young people mostly via email and online chat, the latter of which markedly prevails, from the early morning hour until midnight. Young people seek help especially during Christmas and spring holidays.
The 2019 online chat data suggests young people, ages 16 to 22, contact IPčko most often. When reaching out to experts, up to 31.2 percent do so because they are experiencing loneliness, depression, and fear, while 17.2 percent self-harm or have suicidal thoughts. The email data is similar.
“In one case, a youngster started a chat only to copy their ‘goodbye’ letter, then they signed off,” Madro said. There were two cases in 2019 when IPčko could not help.
A helpline for the disabled
The association launched its second “Good Line” helpline for young, disabled people last year. The Bratislava Volunteer Centre named it the best volunteer project of 2019. Up to 41.3 percent of the disabled suffer from depression and loneliness, the data on the Good Line online chats shows. Of those that reach out via email, 19.6 percent self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.
Madro said society does not accept people who talk about their hardships. Blended with high performance expectations, some people struggle with suicidal thoughts as a result. IPčko helps these people for free despite difficulties. “What we need is regular funding,” the psychologist stressed.
The Spectator College is a programme designed to support the study and teaching of English in Slovakia, as well as to inspire interest in important public issues among young people.