According to a recent study, the mental health of children and young people in Estonia is in a precarious state. Karmen Maikalu, head of the Estonian Association of School Psychologists (EKPÜ), believes, the fact that only half of schools have in-house psychologists is not helping to improve the situation.
A study conducted by the Estonian National Institute for Health Development (TAI) Survey, has shown that young people in Estonia are twice as likely as adults to suffer from both depression and anxiety disorders.
"What is very often the case, for example, is that young people are really overburdened. They are expected to do a lot at school, their parents have high expectations, (and the) young people have very high expectations of themselves, so at some point that all starts to add up," explains Karmen Maikalu, head of the Estonian Association of School Psychologists (EKPÜ).
When various relationship problems are added to this, mental health issues can start to snowball. Perhaps things would be easier if young people talked about their thoughts and feelings? Unfortunately, Maikalu says, there are challenges in this area too - young people are either often too reluctant or unable to open up. And there isn't always a specialist on hand to listen or guide them.
"We should have a school psychologist in every school, available to every child. Unfortunately, only 53 percent of schools have psychologists. But whether young people know how to talk about their feelings at all, or how to express them, is something that schools should probably pay more attention to. We teach math and physics at school, but just as importantly, we should also be teaching people skills. We have quite a lot of young people who, for example, only know how to regulate their emotions through self-harm," Maikalu admitted.
But it is not just schools or psychologist alone who can take action to help young people with their mental health. The family and relationships within the family still play an important role.
"If a young person has a supportive family, a trusting relationship with his or her parents, and has been taught how to cope with stress in difficult situations, then there is hope that this young person will be able to cope. There will always be difficulties in life, but they will be (better) able to cope with them."
Maikalu also believes, that the state has a role to play in the equation by taking a systemic approach toward tackling mental health issues, including more effective funding strategies.
Editor: Michael Cole