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Ombudsman Svetina: "It's high time to address the outstanding issues in mental health!"

"Protecting, strengthening and preventing mental disorders is very important because, as Professor Andrej Marušič once wrote, without mental health there is no health, and without mental health there is no quality of life. Moreover, without quality of life, there is no real effectiveness in society," stressed Ombudsman Peter Svetina at an expert consultation on the occasion of World Mental Health Day, which took place on 10 October at Brdo pri Kranju under the title Mental Health and Well-being for All. He supported the initiative of the Ministry of Health in organising the event, as the mental health field has many acute problems that have been ongoing for years. He listed some of them himself.

The Ombudsman expressed his concern about the increase in the number of complaints received relating to people's mental health. "The significant increase in the need for emergency hospital paedopsychiatric services and the lack of adequate treatment capacity for children and adolescents with mental health problems further endangers children and adolescents and constitutes a violation of their rights," he stressed. The Ombudsman is convinced that the state should find solutions more quickly in the area of mental health care for children and adolescents, as delays lead to missed opportunities to improve the quality of their lives and their integration into society. "Our calls for an increase in the number of professionals and measures to ensure that children and adolescents have access to regular treatment and therapies remain unheeded," he said.

The field of psychotherapy also remains unregulated, and the Ombudsman is also confronted with the unequal treatment of psychiatric patients, who do not have access to psychotherapy under health insurance, while patients with somatic problems do. "Most of the initiatives that people in need have been turning to us with for several years are related to the Mental Health Act and unresolved systemic problems, such as the placement of persons in secure wards of social welfare institutions on the basis of a court decision, the shortage of staff and the space problems of social welfare service providers," said the Ombudsman. He reiterated that the situation in secure wards in social welfare institutions has still not changed significantly, despite warnings that action is urgently required and despite the assessment that this constitutes a violation of the rights of the residents.

"The right to freedom of movement due to mental disorder or illness is still being restricted, people are being admitted for treatment without consent, and there are cases in which patients do not agree to stay in the secure wards of social welfare institutions or are enduring poor living conditions," emphasised the Ombudsman, outlining a number of accounts. In individual cases, members of the National Preventive Mechanism or the Ombudsman's colleagues have observed alarming treatment, care and attitudes of medical and other staff towards patients and care recipients. The exercise of the right to education during detention in a secure ward of a special social welfare institution is also inadequately regulated. The issue of payment of the costs of involuntary accommodation in secure wards of social welfare institutions also remains open, as does the issue of transport for patients with mental health problems. There is also the question of the implementation of specific safeguards, which must be strictly enforced in accordance with the rules in force and in line with the standards and recommendations of the profession, in order to avoid excessive interference with the rights of persons. "It is also important for the protection of the human rights of patients treated in wards under the special supervision of psychiatric hospitals, where such measures are permitted, that they have effective remedies against inappropriate or unlawful treatment, as also stressed by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," said Mr Svetina.

"We find that our recommendations are mostly well received by the institutions visited, but unfortunately the implementation of them is too slow," said the Ombudsman. He therefore looked forward to the adoption of the Mental Health Act as soon as possible and called on the Government to finally address all outstanding issues in the field of mental health. "We must not forget education and awareness-raising, which are extremely important, alongside a proper support system for sufferers and their families. At the Ombudsman, we have always promoted this, not least through the Mental Health Days, which we have been co-organising since 2016," said Mr Svetina, expressing his conviction that this meeting will also contribute to better cooperation and integration of all stakeholders regarding the treatment of people with mental health problems and, above all, that it will also brin