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Professionals give free advice for mental health awareness

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, and across Latvia, specialists and practitioners of psycho-emotional therapy are hosting open-house events to promote public awareness and provide better access to help for those suffering from these often tragically debilitating ‘invisible’ disorders of the mind.

Kristine Leja, who chairs the Saules zīmes mental health support organization told LETA Friday that for World Mental Health Day, anyone who wishes could take advantage of free consultations with over a hundred licensed specialists from different professions, including psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, sports psychologists, arts, dance, movement, drama, music, sand arts, biodance and yoga therapists.

The free visits are being hosted as open house events in altogether 23 cities – Cēsis, Bauska, Dobele, Daugavpils, Liepāja, Limbaži, Jelgava, Ogre, Salaspils, Kandava, Līvāni, Jēkabpils, Jaunpiebalga, Jūrmala, Tukums, Jēkabpils, Madona, Sigulda, Talsi, Valmiera, Ventspils and Iecava.

All it takes to participate is to get in touch with the desired practitioner and schedule an appointment using the organization’s website sauleszimes.lv.

Besides the free consultations, two open seminars are being held on gestalt therapy and the possibilities of applying yoga to maintaining one’s mental health.

Leja stresses that “good health means both physical and mental, or emotional welfare, moreover the psychic health is the determinant factor in feeling good physically. Mental health is a very important part of every person’s health,” she said.

As Elmārs Tērauds, president of the Latvian Association of Psychiatrists reminded LTV news program Rīta panorama viewers Thursday to remember to spend time with friends and family, play sports, take days off and not burn themselves out.

In Latvia there are about 20,000 residents registered as suffering from some form of mental illness, about in line with worldwide average – about 1% of the total population.

“In the last two years, the increase in activity and various survey results show that perhaps 7% of people are displaying clinically significant symptoms of depression, others say one-in-ten, who require a specialist’s attention,” said the head of the psychiatrists’ professional organization.

But, he warned, “the aspect of stigma is huge in our society, especially as regards schizophrenia, and it’s good that we’ve been able to start talking about depression more in the last two years, and it’s stigma has softened, but that’s still not true for many other forms of mental illness,” Tērauds said.

“In today’s context we can’t just talk about drugs and medicines, it’s a more comprehensive set of institutions, including social attitudes, the increased access to social psychiatry services, protected workplaces, day-care centers, various support programs, group-living arrangements. This sphere in Latvia, as a sufficiently poorer nation in terms of the state health budget is in fact in terrible condition.

These types of long-term measures are what is needed to help reintegrate those who have overcome their schizophrenia and want to return to normal life rather than becoming like invalids," he said.

The World Health Organization is in its second year of a “landmark” Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 calling for “change in the attitudes that perpetuate stigma and discrimination that have isolated people since ancient times, and for an expansion of services in order to promote greater efficiency in the use of resources.”

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