The conference is dedicated to improving the health care of people with mental health problems. The conference is organized under high patronage of Croatian Ministry of Health, President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, Croatian Parliament and the City of Zagreb. The organizers are Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Dutch Trimbos Institute, together with professional societies and other co-organizers. Conference participants were welcomed by Mr. Tomislav Dulibić, State Secretary, Ministry of Health, Krunoslav Capak, Director of Croatian Institute of Public Health and psychiatrist Hugo Koetsier, Head of the Dutch Trimbos Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, and the conference was supported, with their opening addresses, by Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia, psychiatrist Božo Petrov, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Croatia, H.E. Ellen Berends, Mayor of the City of Zagreb, Milan Bandić and special envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia, Petrana Brečić.
The conference gathered a large number of professionals working on rehabilitation and treatment of people with mental illness. In addition, aside from the experts by profession, in the work of the conference were, for the first time, actively involved also experts by experience. They worked together in a series of workshops and discussed a number of issues concerning the principles and organization of mental health care in the community and exchanged knowledge and experience in this area. The conference was opened with a play “On the other side of the looking glass”, organized by the Trešnjevka Cultural Centre in partnership with the Association Ludruga – 100% people. The play was devised, created and played by members of Ludruga, persons with psychosocial challenges, and in this way they worked on their own empowerment and overcoming self-stigma. Trešnjevka Cultural Centre and the Association Ludruga present an example of good practice in the field of intersectoral cooperation and promoting art as an inclusive tool.
The stigmatization of people with psychosocial challenges is detected as one of the major problems of our society and we can reach positive changes in social awareness via this kind of presentations. The play, in a moving way, touches the question of suffering that people diagnosed with some mental illness are faced with and about their problems, stigmatization and rejection, which they are exposed to in everyday life.
The World Health Organisation estimates that mental health disorders will, by 2030, become a leading global problem. Already today, mental health disorders are in the first place when it comes to the number of days spent in the hospital treatment, while particularly concerning is the fact that the number of young people with mental health problems is increasing. Due to regular treatments, today many clients would be able to continue their lives in the community. Unfortunately, due to stigma and discrimination, rather than the disease itself, they often remain on the margins of society and in isolation.
Experience of several countries related to the organizational changes in the health system have been presented, together with linking the health system with other relevant stakeholders, such as social welfare, justice and NGOs. The importance of fighting against stigmatization by entire community was stressed with the purpose of ensuring equality, justice and social inclusion.
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