Children in Slovenia want mental health on the same level as physical health

A blog by Petra Zega, Programe Assistant at the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth, on the importance children gave to mental health in the last National Children's Parliament meeting.

Early in April, elementary school students from all regions of Slovenia gathered in the National Assembly in the capital Ljubljana for the 34th National Children's Parliament meeting with main topic 'Mental health of children and young people'.

115 school students, and other 21 peers who played the role of journalists, discussed the importance of mental health, a topic chosen by themselves at the beginning of the school year in September. For us, adults, this is an indicator that mental health presents problems and challenges to children and they want to talk about it.

During the discussions, children mainly highlighted the following:

  • Mental health should not be a taboo.
  • Talking about mental health problems is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of maturity.
  • We must put mental health on the same level as physical health.
  • The school system causes a lot of stress and hardship for children: the school should provide learning for life and not be burdened with too much detailed information; more active lessons: classes should be attractive, lessons outside with more practical work, more sports, recreational breaks; relaxation activities and relaxation corners should be included in schools (sacks for sitting, headphones for listening to music, anti-stress toys or accessories, etc.).
  • Faster access to psychologists, psychotherapists and all other professional help that can help us overcome mental distress.
  • Additional education on children's mental health for parents as well as teachers and children themselves.

At the end of the event, children handed over the final document (memorandum) to the President of the National Assembly as they want their conclusions to be discussed among politicians and policy-makers. Their final message was: 'This is our voice. We want to be heard and included. We look forward to your response.'

Let's hope there will be steps towards improvements in children's mental health.

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