SOS helplines for parents and children – essential services for preventing suicides

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people aged 15–29 years worldwide. The National SOS Child Helpline 116-111, the National SOS Parent Helpline 080 888 888 and the strengthening of socio-emotional skills

UNICEF Montenegro
two children using  mobile
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2018
13 September 2021

PODGORICA, 10 SEPTEMBER, 2021 – On the occasion of the World Suicide Prevention Day celebrated on September 10th, UNICEF and NGO Parents want to break the current taboo associated with mental health issues. Through this action they hope to provide better support to children, young people and their families in order to prevent suicides and to ensure that every girl and boy in Montenegro has the chance to fully realise his or her potential.

Globally, suicides result in more than 700,000 deaths every year and there are many more who unsuccessfully attempt to commit suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and records a higher number of deaths than malaria, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, war and homicide. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in young people aged 15–29 years worldwide, after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.

Suicides are preventable. For this reason, in Montenegro, UNICEF has supported the establishment of a National SOS Child Helpline 116-111 and a National SOS Parent Helpline 080 888 888. We are also actively supporting the strengthening of socio-emotional life skills in adolescents through in-school and out-of-school activities. In addition to this, we are calling upon all national and local authorities to urgently engage in breaking the stigma associated with mental health issues as well as encouraging young people and their families to seek professional support.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro
SOS linija
UNICEF Crna Gora
SOS linija
UNICEF Crna Gora

The UNICEF Montenegro Young Reporters team participated in the promotion of the National SOS Child Helpline 116-111.

There are situations when we need to talk to someone other than our parents, teachers or friends, but that somebody needs to be a person whom we can trust and who can give us useful advice. This is what this SOS Child Helpline is for, at least in my opinion.

Jana Kostić, UNICEF Montenegro young reporter

More than 2,000 children and young people have called this line since it was launched in December 2018. It is managed by licensed professionals working at the Mladost Children’s Home in Bijela. The most common requests for help are related to problems in relationships with peers, parents and siblings, to misunderstanding of children's needs by parents and due to the loss of a family member. They are, however, also related to issues such as depression, discrimination and sexuality.

The NGO Parents has managed the SOS Parent Helpline 080 888 888 since its establishment in February 2017. So far, more than 8,000 parents have used this service licensed by the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare. The most common concerns were related to setting boundaries for children in their early years, to challenges related to adolescence and to how to manage relationships with children and young people during and after divorce.

Our experience, to date, concerning our work with the SOS Parent Helpline has shown us that parents often feel powerless when dealing with many of the problems they encounter with their children. In addition to this, they feel  helpless due to a lack of adequate support services. Family relationships with parents and other family members form the foundations of the development of a child’s personality. Therefore, such relationships are crucial for preventing and resolving various issues. By supporting parents we support children. The main problem, however, is that key decision-makers have an insufficient level of awareness about such issues and are consequently reluctant to commit to helping to establish and develop adequate support services.

Lepa Žunjić, feom the Parents’ Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation regarding mental health issues for people all over the world. Providing regular support through SOS Helplines has become even more critical for people during lockdown periods, in quarantine situations and due to frustrations felt as a result of limitations experienced due to epidemiological measures necessary for fighting the pandemic. An increase in poverty during the pandemic, the death of loved ones and the problems associated with coping with COVID-19 has made even more people vulnerable to mental health issues. For a national response to be effective, different sectors – health, education, social and child protection, the police, the judiciary and the media – all need to work together continuously to ensure that high quality mental health support services can be provided to families all over Montenegro. Adequate budget funds also need to be provided.