Open schools to preserve mental health

The Association of Psychologists of Montenegro joins UNICEF’s appeal to respect measures #DistanceHandsMask and open schools as soon as possible to preserve children’s and families’ mental health

UNICEF Montenegro
Children with masks in a school
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020
21 August 2021

PODGORICA, APRIL 20, 2021 – The Association of Psychologists of Montenegro joins UNICEF’s appeal to respect measures #DistanceHandsMask and open schools as soon as possible to preserve children’s and families’ mental health.

Schools are not just centers of knowledge. They are key places for children’s socio-emotional development, which is equally if not even more important for a healthy and happy life.

Radisa Scekic, President of the Association of Psychologists

Sreten Lutovac from the Association of Psychologists thinks that during the pandemic we need to encourage children and adolescents to build and keep good relations with family, peers and friends. We need to teach them how best to cope with their emotions, how to develop and improve their socio-emotional skills, as well as how to react in expected and surprising life events. This is one of the ways to contribute to preserving mental health of children and adolescents. Also, it would be significant if the relevant institutions provided schools with protocols containing clear guidelines for work. The aim would be to raise awareness on the importance of preserving mental health of all acters of the educational process.

Zorica Minic from the Association of Psychologists reminded that studies on the transmission of coronavirus in schools all over the world indicate that schools are safe places when they respect epidemiological measures and that they do not have a significant role in spreading coronavirus. Children are deprived of contact with older members of families as they are presumed to be asymptomatic transmitters of coronavirus, which makes them feel guilty. If the classes do not take place in schools, consequences are numerous. In particular, the lack of acquiring more complex knowledge and skills is evident, as for this to happen live interaction in classes is needed.

Tamara Milic from the Association of Psychologists warned about the negative impact of the fact that children are not in a structured environment stimulating their development from early childhood to adolescence. More than a year of such experience can have long-term consequences, especially on early childhood development.

Association of Psychologists of Montenegro calls for all schools to implement the program for socio-emotional development of children My virtues and values developed with UNICEF's support. The need for such programs now is urgent in order to cope with long-term effects of isolation on children's and adolescents' mental health.

UNICEF Montenegro Representative Juan Santander reminded that according to the estimates from the period before the pandemic 1 in 5 adolescents has mental health issues, while suicide is one of the key causes of deaths among adolescents globally.

School closures will make more damage than good to children and young people even though they are organized with best intentions. We now know that there is no need to close schools, because data clearly show that schools are not centres of transmission of coronavirus when they respect epidemiological measures. We need to open schools as soon as possible to preserve families' mental health.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro Representative

The Association of Psychologists of Montenegro and UNICEF will continue to assist the national education system to improve psycho-social support to children, families and school employees, which is key for mitigating the long-term consequences of the pandemic on mental health.