The social awareness campaign “Don’t turn away” (nenoversies.lv) launched Wednesday to bring public attention to the mental health issues that underlie the tragic statistics on people in Latvia who choose to end their own lives, or attempt to do so. Latvia is still the tenth leading country for the taking of one's own life, they say.
Yet this is just the first time such a campaign has ever been conducted in Latvia.
Social health expert Toms Pulmanis of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SPKC) explained that psychological troubles are the prime risk factor behind almost 90% of suicide cases. Among the mental health disorders to which suicides are attributed are depression, eating and sleeping disorders, dementia and schizophrenia, in most cases successfully treatable.
Psychotherapist Gunta Andžāne told LTV news program Panorāma Wednesday that there is growing concern for teenagers contemplating or choosing to try suicide in the face of sometimes cruel peer relationships or parental neglect.
“If a child doesn’t receive the warmth and emotional support in the family, he’ll seek it outside. So perhaps he finds one person, a friend, who attests that he’s loved. A lovely teen romance ensues, and then it abruptly ends,” Andžāne hinted at romantic failure being a common cause of depression leading to suicide amongst teens.
Psychiatrist Inga Zārde urged people not to fear to seek help from professional therapists and mental health care practitioners, just like they would from their physicians for their physical health issues.
However, should the fear seem to be insurmountable, experts suggest visiting the campaign website, where information on the characteristics of psychological precursors, available sources and methods of help for troubled individuals have been gathered in one site.
A televised public service video to reduce society’s prevailing bias against mental illness will accompany the campaign, as well as posters, billboards, discussions and lectures addressing the issue. Materials will be sent to schools, pensioners’ groups, family doctors and other target audiences.
SPKC statistics reveal that in the EU one in every third resident suffers from some psychic or neurological illness on average. In 2012 patients treated for such diagnoses in Latvia comprised 6.5% of residents seeking professional medical assistance.
An SPKC survey showed that 68% of residents know where to turn for help for mental health troubles, while 20% of respondents did not know and 12% would find it difficult to tell where to find help.
Moreover, 41% of respondents claimed that they would hide the fact of a close family member suffering from a psychiatric disorder, including from their friends, while 37% said they would rather share the knowledge.
Of the thousand persons surveyed by the SPKC, 44% answered that their first desire upon encountering someone with apparent mental health problems in public transport would be to avoid sitting near them. While 26% would actually move away from the persons, 24% would remain near them but attempt to ignore or turn away from them. Meanwhile, 17% responded that their first desire would be to determine whether or not the person needed help.
Other polls have showed an average of 67% of residents between the ages of 15 and 64 reflecting the opinion that society tends to devalue and discriminate against the mentally ill.