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