Background (problems and necessities of the target group)

Each year, mental disorders impact more than a third of the Europe’s population and are spread through many socially vulnerable groups. Percentage share for hiring mentally disordered people varies between 18% and 30%, as the lowest rate of employment is encountered in the share of people suffering from psychotic disorders (see Eurostat 2010). Suicide rates in the European region are quite higher than in the rest of the world. (average suicide death toll- 13.9 / 100 000 people). Besides, people with mental health issues face with incomparably higher mortality than the average population, and often die quite earlier. According to the epidemiologic surveys, mental disorders occur in a fifth of the population in our country. Disseminated by types, they are classified as follows: anxiety disorder (11.4%), affective disorders (6.2%), addiction- 3.3%, developmental disorders (1.1%). Stigmatization and social exclusion, which are simultaneously presented as both risk factors and consequences from the mental disorders, can seriously hinder the enquiry of mental health aid and treatment. It is thought that stigma consequences- as display of discrimination- are quite more overwhelming than the direct effect of the mental illness itself. People suffering from mental health issues experience difficulties with finding accommodation; unemployment is a staggering problem to them- employers just refuse to hire a person with mental issue; the chance of contracting a marriage for this person is drastically dropped down; these people often lose their friends and sometimes it is hard for them to make new ones; social isolation, even on behalf of their own relatives; All these are facts and realities of the mental disorder consequences; People with mental health issues receive less and lower quality social and health services. Stigma can contribute to the change in the course of the mental illness in negative direction because of the stress that the stigmatized individual experience in relation. Stress can bring up a recurrence of the illness or at least can lead to deterioration. According to Matt Muen- a counselor to WHO on mental health issues, Bulgaria can use the positive experience of the more advanced countries in order to introduce new practices and know-how for the mentally ill people.

The diagnosis, called “mentally ill” is considered a sentence in Bulgaria. Many negative beliefs in regard to the mentally disordered people exist that give reason for a display of stigmatizing attitudes: People with mental health issues are dangerous; they are prone to violence, can be destructive, injure or even kill; mental disorders do not resort to medical treatment; psychotherapy and medications are often useless and even harmful; the mentally ill people cannot take responsibility for their actions; they must not be treated as normal people, but as ones for whom special cares should be applied and should not be left to care for themselves independently; they cannot survive outside the psychiatric clinics and without any support from their relatives…and many other myths and prejudices. Including these people within the category of „the different” ones causes negative presumptions.

People with mental disorders accept the existing attitudes toward them and start constraining their own behavior, thus discriminating against themselves. Relatives and friends also suffer from the stigma due to their close relationship with a mentally ill person.

People are constantly faced with challenges for which they do not feel enough prepared. Analyses show that actions and campaigns are needed to prevent stigmatization in schools and workplaces with the aim to create a favorable environment for the integration of people, suffering from mental illnesses; introduction of socially incorporated mental health services that put the individual at the center of the cares; encouraging the social integration of people suffering from mental disorders, allowing them to have an easier access to their workplaces and to specially customized training programs. It is believed that even better result can be achieved if both people with and without mental illness work together within a jointly organized anti-stigma campaign. The present project envisions meetings and work in cooperation by using the practically approved method of including youth and motivated young students in the activities.

Another undisputed mechanism is the use of media for the conduct of mass campaigns. An important aspect here is the work with journalists who strive for emphasize on the attention –attractive key points of the mental health issues, with special regard to violence. By delegating engagements to the journalists for facilitation and provision of information about the campaign, the project is sure to accomplish a more balanced reflection of the mental health issues.

Romani people are part of the most vulnerable groups. Certain specifics are attributed to other minority groups as well, incl. refugees and immigrants. Not knowing and not considering the cultural differences and traditions of these groups, is part of the reasons why their representatives often turn to different methods of self-healing. Habitually, Romani population does not pay enough attention to the mental health. The project proposal envisages combining the instruments for prevention of stigma with the cultural peculiarities of the above mentioned group.

The basis for education in the care of mental health should be laid in the first years of the child’s development. Accordingly, the promotion of mental health among the young people and in the education system is set as project priority. The program to be conducted in schools in the country, developed on the basis of the carried out school surveys and Norwegian practices, aims to achieve diminishing of current biases and discrimination behavior among the adolescents as well as improvement of the knowledge about where and when they can seek specialized medical aid and how to provide help to a classmate or a friend.

The project activities will achieve the necessary social change and it is sure for it to be taught to live with the concept of the mental disorders and cope with them.

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