Changing minds: Mental health in Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, talking openly about mental health has been tough for a long time. The way people think about it has been shaped by our history, culture, and religion.


Events like the Second World War and years of communism made it even harder. But things are slowly starting to change. People are speaking up more, and there's hope for healing after years of struggle.

History: How wars and communism shaped views

The memories of World War II still haunt Eastern Europe. The suffering and loss from that time made talking about emotions even harder. And when communism took over, speaking out became risky. Showing any sign of weakness could get you in trouble. So, many people kept their struggles to themselves.

Culture and religion's role

In Eastern European cultures, there's a strong belief in being tough and handling problems alone. Mental health issues were often seen as personal failings, not real problems. Religion also influenced this view. Many believed prayer could fix any problem, including mental ones. But this sometimes made people feel ashamed to seek help.

Change is happening

Despite these challenges, things are slowly getting better. More people are talking about mental health, and awareness is growing. Governments and communities are starting to take it seriously. They're spreading information and making it easier for people to get help.

Therapy: A new hope

Therapy used to be looked down upon, but now more people see its value. Therapists are adapting their approaches to fit Eastern European cultures. They provide a safe space for people to talk about their feelings and learn how to cope with past traumas.

Therapists' role: Understanding and support

As therapists, there are several ways we can better understand and support individuals from Eastern Europe facing mental health challenges.

Trauma-informed approach

One effective approach is using a trauma-informed lens. Given the region's history of war and oppression, many clients may have experienced significant trauma. Understanding how trauma impacts mental health and behaviour can help therapists create a safe environment and tailor treatment plans that address underlying issues.

Cultural sensitivity

Cultural sensitivity is also crucial. Being aware of cultural norms, values, and beliefs can help therapists navigate conversations about mental health more effectively. It's important to respect clients' cultural backgrounds and integrate culturally appropriate interventions into therapy.

Building trust

Building trust is essential, especially in societies where the stigma surrounding mental health persists. Therapists can foster trust by demonstrating empathy, authenticity, and non-judgmental attitudes. This can encourage clients to open up about their experiences and seek the support they need.

Empowering coping skills

Empowering clients with coping skills is another valuable aspect of therapy. Teaching practical techniques for managing stress, regulating emotions, and challenging negative thought patterns can empower individuals to take control of their mental well-being and navigate life's challenges more effectively.

Finding hope for the future

Though the past still casts a shadow, there's hope for a brighter future. By talking openly, educating others, and pushing for change, Eastern Europe is moving toward a more understanding view of mental health. It's a journey of healing and resilience, and everyone's voices matter in shaping the path forward. Therapists play a vital role in this process, offering support, understanding, and hope to those in need.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2
Written by Gosia Grabowska, MNCPS (Acc.) Parenting, Family Issues, LGBTQ+, Couples
Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2

Gosia is a bilingual therapist originally from Poland. She loves to travel by train and is curious about people's stories and experiences. She is passionate about navigating relationships, supporting parents, and addressing LGBTQ+ and cultural diversity issues. Her sessions are available both online and in person.

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