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News
Having a Health Issue and Talking about it Publicly is Embarrassing in Serbia
12. Oct 2022.
Belgrade, 11 October 2022. – The roundtable ’A Cup of Coffee with a Psychologist’ organized by Hemofarm Foundation was held in Belgrade on the occasion of the World Mental Health Day, on the topic of stigmatization of people with mental disorders and on the mechanisms of protection against it.

The spekers agreed that one of the best ways to defeat stigma is to speak out against it when people make negative or misleading comments about mental illness or people who struggle with it.

Tamara Džamonja Ignjatović, professor at the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Philosophy and the president of the Association of Psychologists of Serbia, explained that stigma is marking or labeling of persons whose characteristics differ from what is the standard of social norms.



’If you have a disorder and a problem related to that disorder, which is a direct consequence of the disorder, and when this is followed by shame about the disease and difficulty of asking for help, because it also means admitting weakness, or accepting the public stigma, then there are also negative feelings about the negative feelings that are already there as a consequence of the disease’, she assessed and emphasized that it is very important for people to know that there is no shame in talking about the disorder.

Rock critic Petar Peca Popović said that Serbia is a country where it is a shame to have a health problem and to publicly say that one is suffering from it.



’People are ashamed to admit that they have any disease, especially something like this. I have a friend who says that someone who hasn’t gone mad yet is not sane. Circumstances are like that, time is like that. Come on, say it in a small environment. They will run away from you like they ran away from the plague in the Middle Ages,’ he said. Popović pointed out that a big problem is the way mental illness is presented in music and frequent misunderstanding of mental illness, and that there is a misunderstanding of the real nature of conditions such as depression and various types of mania, and then listed a number of classical, jazz, and rock 'n' roll musicians who suffered from the condition.

’Classical music gave Beethoven - major depression; Brahms - bipolar spectrum; Chopin - major depression; Gluck, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert and Schumann - a bipolar spectrum,’ he said.

Overcoming stigmatization is a prerequisite for timely therapy, treatment outcome and resocialization of the person. The first step in that process is to stop using stigmatizing names and using offensive terms.

’Destigmatization should be aimed at providing mental health support in the community, outside of psychiatric clinics, making these services accessible and non-stigmatizing. Education is the most common strategy, which includes campaigns aimed at the general public, but also work with target groups, such as healthcare professionals, especially journalists, but also others. Finally, direct experience with people who are successfully treated for mental disorders and lead responsible and productive lives may be most effective in reducing negative attitudes’, professor Džamonja Ignjatović said.



The Hemofarm Foundation’s roundtable is part of the “Nesalomivi” campaign, the goal of which is to raise public awareness about mental health preservation and create a social movement to fight depression and stigma that accompanies the ones who suffer.

Help and support for the population is available via SOS line 0800 001 002 and email podrska@nesalomivi.rs. Calls are free and anonymous, and the help of experts at the four Special Hospitals for Psychiatric Diseases in Vršac, Kovin, Novi Kneževac and Gornja Toponica is available 24/7.