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Pandemic Takes Toll on Mental Health among Croatian Youth

epa10179406 Students gather at the yard of their school on the first day of the 2022-23 academic year, at the 2nd primary shool in Corinth, Greece, 12 September 2022. Schools in Greece reopen for the start of a new academic year, with roughly 1.34 million school children of all ages attending.The new school year will see a number of changes relative to previous years, including the abolition of mandatory mask use. Unvaccinated teachers will still have to provide a weekly negative Covid-19 test at their own expense, however.The measures against Covid-19 will be greatly relaxed, with the use of masks made optional, while pupils that show symptoms are required to remain home. Those diagnosed with Covid can return after five days of isolation if the symptoms have fully subsided. EPA-EFE/VASSILIS PSOMAS

The rate of attempted suicide among young people in Croatia has risen sharply, but a lack of resources means schools and health institutions are struggling to respond.

Croatia’s Plavi Telefon [Blue Phone] support line received its first call in 1991, in the early days of a war for independence from federal Yugoslavia. Today, the country faces a different kind of battle.

Over the past year, “because of psychological problems, the numbers of calls to us has increased 60 per cent,” said Miroslav Vucenovic, one of the volunteers manning the phones. “Every other call we get is because of suicidal thoughts.”

Official statistics point to a growing mental health crisis in Croatia.

Between 2021 and 2022, the number of suicide attempts among children under the age of 14 almost quadrupled, from five to 19; there were 12 per cent more among 15-18 year-olds and 60 per cent more in the age group 19-25.

Researchers have pointed the finger of blame at the COVID-19 pandemic and the social-distancing measures imposed around the globe to try to slow its spread.

“As many as 36 per cent of students say that the pandemic harmed their mental health,” said Boris Jokic, head of the research project ‘Growing up in (Post) Pandemic Times – Experiences from Croatia’ that was published in February.

Covering 167 schools, 8,861 education workers and 43,495 students, the extensive study found that the education system had “responded well” to the pandemic, “but a significant section of children, especially girls, need systematic support for mental and social health.”

Source: Balkan Insight