Social ministry aims to reduce number of child suicides to zero

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The entrance of the so-called "Superministry" complex, which also houses the Ministry of Social Affairs. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The mental health of Estonian children has worsened year-on-year, leading to an increase in the number of suicides committed. The Ministry is Social Affairs is working on a prevention plan, the completion of which will not happen this year.

Ere Vasli, a psychiatrist at the Tallinn Children's Hospital mental health center, said the mental health issues of young people have begun to worsen yearly and young people cannot get help from a specialist in time.

"We see that the availability of psychiatric help is not nearly enough. It is certainly a great difficulty for all young people. For us, the specialists, it is hard to see young people in trouble, not getting the help they need," Vasli said.

Long waiting lists and untimely assistance stems from system underfunding, which does not allow for enough personnel nor efficient support services.

"We do not have enough people to work with these young people, if we need it from a psychiatry or medicine side. If we look at it generally, there is a large deficit of any kind of support services, such as treatment houses or other locations where young people could stay at for a year to recover from their problems," Vasli noted.

The young people who have been in serious mental health turmoil and have not received timely help, have unfortunately taken their own lives. Last year, the number of suicides was 10. The Ministry of Social Affairs is working on a suicide prevention plan to take that number down to zero.

"We need a framework that is well thought out. What are our goals and how do we act to make this cooperation as good and effective as possible," said ministry adviser Käthlin Mikiver, currently the only person working on the prevention plan.

She noted that drawing out a thorough prevention plan takes a long time and it will not be ready before the new year. "We are awaiting so-called contributions from other sectors, it requires discussing and will take time. But our goal is to complete the plan by January and let's hope that is how it goes. It must all be thought through and scientifically backed, we cannot do things willy-nilly," Mikiver said.

Both young people and adults can call the Child Helpline telephone number 116 111 for advice.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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