Blogbox | Health

We need to talk about mental health

By - 23.06.2017

Why do Kosovars see discussions about emotional and mental issues as taboo?

In Kosovar society you rarely hear someone say that they visited a psychologist or a psychiatrist because of potential emotional issues, or issues related to the psyche.

Unlike in other Western countries, where these issues are beginning to be discussed more openly, visits to the psychologist or psychiatrist are much more likely to be kept quiet than visits to other doctors, such as medical visits for physical injuries.

And this is true despite the fact that psychology is nothing but a branch of science that has humans as a study object, just like medicine. Medicine deals more with disorders or symptoms that are mainly physiological, whereas Psychology deals with issues and disorders that are more emotional, spiritual and behavioral. Both physiology and the psyche interact with one another and are equally as important for human life.

It is illogical for these two things that are so important for people — physiology and psychology — to be prioritized so differently.

But just how much does Kosovo’s population prioritize physical and mental health? This is quite clear. There is no need to go too far. We can just analyze our respective social circles.

The initial reactions you get after telling someone that you need a psychologist for consultation about some sort of emotional problem, for instance, are reactions of surprise, as if it was something abnormal or taboo.

It is illogical that these two things that are so important for people — physiology and psychology — are prioritized so differently.

One of the reasons that this happens is particularly this fear of those reactions or other people’s opinions about our actions. It is a fear of people laughing at you or thinking that you are “mentally ill,” just because you have visited a psychologist for consultation.

We might even say that visiting the psychologist is a sort of phobia for our society.

We are all aware that our institutions have a very low number of psychologists, especially schools. Even when psychologists are employed, this is done only “for show,” namely to fulfil legal obligations to a certain extent, although they are still not fulfilled in their entirety.

For example in education institutions we notice a significant absence of psychologists, despite the fact that the law obliges schools to employ at least one psychologist; last year’s figures show that only 87 psychologists were employed in schools and that some schools have no psychologist.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a need for psychologists, particularly in recent years. Pupils need psychological treatment, especially during adolescence, when they go through different challenges because of the transition from childhood to adulthood. It is a period in which self-identity is created, and many different changes are experienced by the individual. We are also seeing many cases of violence in our schools. In such cases both parties require psychological treatment, both the victim and the bully.

The recent war in Kosovo left a lot of traces in the memories of those that experienced it.

On the other hand, experiences or trauma that an individual endures in childhood could surface much later in the form of problems and disorders in adulthood. In most cases parents do not know how to act around their children when they face psychological problems. Parents must act and cooperate with psychologists in these cases. This really helps both parents and children, serving to surpass the problem more quickly and easily.

However, the situation is even worse at an institutional level, as well as with enterprises or private firms, as they rarely (if ever) have psychologists among their staff to deal with potential psychological problems that employees might face, knowing that many of them endure a lot of pressure from their employers. Just a few of the many issues faced by employees in Kosovo include long shifts, having little break time, or in some cases no days off throughout the whole month, let alone weeks off. These are significant causes of stress and can lead to demotivation, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

We also all know that the recent war in Kosovo left a lot of traces in the memories of those that experienced it. Today many of these people face disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic disorders, emotional problems, stress, depression, and other psychological issues. Many of them have also lost loved ones, and despite the war having ended years ago, this does not mean that their wounds have healed.

There are also a large number of victims of physical and sexual violence. They are all in dire need of psychological care. Psychological support would help them to cope with the pain (at least to some extent) that they carry as a result of their experiences during wartime.

I see many people that treat their psychological issues like personal secrets. They try to hide them or share them with friends, but they forget that their friends do not have the skills to handle this, and that these secrets will likely eventually be passed on to others, resulting in a feeling of regret. This is why it is best to visit a psychologist, a person that is competent, professional, has undergone training and has been educated in this profession. The most important thing is that your information, whatever you say to the psychologist, will be kept confidential in accordance with the ethical principles of the psychology profession.

Thankfully the number of people who study psychology is growing every year in our country, however, unfortunately, very few of them are being offered jobs, and it is a pity that because of this many of them, despite having diplomas in Psychology, are being forced to work other jobs that have nothing to do with their profession. They work these jobs with little motivation and out of necessity, simply to gain money to sustain themselves and to help their families. This is truly terrible and it is depressing that all their work and knowledge gained from their studies is not utilized for scientific research or work.

I hope that our society will become aware of the value and importance that psychology has sooner rather than later, because then we can start to take care of our mental health and to know how to deal with problems that face our psyche — even problems that we might not be aware of. Then we can have a good and healthy life.

Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.

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