Dramatic increase in mental health problems affecting children and teenagers

There has been a dramatic increase in mental health problems affecting children and teenagers in recent years, experts reported at a special event held in Athens earlier this week to mark World Mental Health Day. While the number of cases admitted to children’s psychiatric wards in hospitals by prosecutor’s order has doubled, they noted, shortages of staff and equipment in regional hospitals were forcing patients to come to Athens hospitals for treatment.

Speaking at the event on Tuesday, the director of the Agia Sophia Children’s Hospital Child Psychiatry Clinic Dr. Dimitris Anagnostopoulos reported an increased incidence of children and teenagers suffering from depression, internet addiction and other mental health disorders. He noted that the majority of Greeks on an individual and collective level were experiencing conditions that caused deep pain and despair, as a result of the extended economic crisis. An indication of the problem, he noted, was the fact that 30 pct of calls to helplines for depression were made by teenagers worried about their parents and trying to find ways to help them.

Speakers also referred at length to the World Health Organisation (WHO) theme for 2016 “Dignity in Mental Health: Psychological and Mental Health First Aid for All,” noting that it should not be considered self-evident that this help will be forthcoming, partly due to ignorance but also due to discrimination against people with mental health issues.

Child psychiatrist Giorgos Nikolaidis highlighted the need to protect the rights of children coming forward to report abuse, noting that the present system required a child making such a report to repeat his story up to 14 times to various services.