I believe that the number one priority at the moment in Europe and more specifically in the country our organization is targeting – Bulgaria should be the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
In today’s Europe, the second most common reason for death amongst youngsters is suicide. Studies show that almost one-fifthof European boys and more than sixteen percent of girls are struggling with a mental disorder.
Statistics led by UNICEF Bulgaria reveal that one in five death cases amongst young people is caused by self-harm. The amount of teenagers with depression, anxiety, fears, and destructive emotions, in general, is immense. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on their overall well-being. According to the last studies the feeling of loneliness has increased four times, anger and irritation by three and fear has doubled.
The other big issue at sight is that all those people struggling with mental health are not seeking help. There are two main reasons for that.
The first is that in Bulgaria, there is still a stereotype that thinking of visiting a psychologist or therapist indicates you are “crazy.” It is frowned upon to seek help, and those who do so actively are considered weak or attention seekers and are frequently subjected to ridicule and harassment. All of this causes shame and anxiety for the adolescents to address the problems that they are facing and see a professional. In Bulgarian research, 63% of teenagers choose to cope with their problems on their own rather than reach out for help.
The second reason is financial. The health system in Bulgaria is lacking much support from the government, especially the mental health sector. Treatment of mental health disorders and psychotherapy is not funded by the government. The financial status of the average Bulgarian is such that it is difficult to afford to visit a therapist. Our NGO just like many others has made countless efforts to raise the issue and achieve the goal of having at least 6 psychological consultations per year paid for by the government, but unfortunately without success so far.
The reason mental health and well-being are our priority is very simple. It all comes from the inside – the motivation, the decision making, the problem solving, the drive to live and make a change in the world so itcould be a better place for everyone. If your leg is broken you cannot go and win a run race. So if you don’t feel good mentally you cannot live a fulfilling life. Once we achieve this European youth goal our minds will be free and healthy to focus and pursue every other one more easily.
What we consider should be added to the 11 European Youth Goals is increasing critical thinking skills. As a result of the current crises the world is experiencing and the changes in Europe in the past few years (the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine) there definitely exists a need for a new EYG that is increasing critical thinking abilities in young people in Europe. With the huge amounts of various information, propaganda, and fake news, it is ever more indispensable for young people to be prepared to recognize which are credible sources of information and to distinguish them from fake information. Stimulating critical thinking is of great importance for the physical and mental health of young people.
Written by project L.I.K.E. intern