Mental health in the time of Corona: Czech government to launch new help program

Anxiety and depression have almost tripled in connection with the pandemic.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 10.11.2020 09:58 (updated on 10.11.2020)

The Czech government will launch an information and support campaign for mental health, which is being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government will also strengthen crisis assistance, and provide affordable psychological and social support for people in need.

The Government Council for Mental Health met with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) to address the issue. The proposals were unanimously approved by the council and are expected to be rapidly approved by the full government without changes.

Research data from the Czech population show a two-to three-fold increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression in connection with the pandemic, according to the Czech Ministry of Health. This increase in mental health problems, including an increase in suicide. is expected to intensify with the economic crisis.

“Mental health is extremely important, it's another crucial thing in managing a pandemic. I would like to remind all who may need it that the first psychological helpline works under line 1221, which also offers help for people with psychological problems associated with the effects of the coronavirus epidemic,” Babiš said in a press release. The help line at 1221 is also available in English.

“I will propose further strengthening of crisis lines by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, especially focused on the child population. We will involve other teams of psychologists in the support of the general population and set up coordination of inter-ministerial cooperation for work at the regional level, even for the purposes of other important events,” he added.

In response, the Government Council has decided to implement an information campaign for mental health related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include information on self-care and on how to recognize symptoms. It will also list available interventions, including contacts for lay and professional support, help and treatment.

The program, implemented by the Health Ministry in cooperation with the National Institute of Mental Health, will take the form of websites and webinars for the general population, as well as information leaflets and brochures.

The Ministry of Education has promised to strengthen information and interventions provided by schools aimed at preventing mental illness and increasing mental resilience.

“I will also propose creating a grant program for private therapists who have completed five years of accredited psychotherapeutic training, so that they can provide therapy to people in need for free. Interventions will be limited to 10 sessions,” Prime Minister Babiš stated.

The Health Ministry has been aware of the seriousness of the effects of the pandemic on mental health from the very beginning and has implemented activities to address them. A free first psychological assistance line was set up, which now operates under line 1221.

In addition, a separate peer support line for health professionals has been set up. The Health Ministry also has also been working with health insurance companies on a network of crisis intervention centers that will be the first contact point for people in crisis providing a range of assistance from outpatient services to crisis beds. This will help prevent the further development of mental illness or suicide.