Dear hospital management, pediatric psychiatrists and staff!
A warm welcome to Liene Dambiņa, Head of the Children's Hospital Foundation, and the honourable representative of Rimi Latvia!
It is a great honour and pleasure for me today to launch a donation campaign for the Children and Youth Mental Health Center and decorate the Tree of Vitality (in Latvian 'Dzīvesspēka koks') with you.
The management of the Children's Clinical University Hospital and the staff of the Children's Hospital Foundation are a remarkable team. You have never been afraid to tackle great challenges. Despite various practical obstacles, you always manage to find innovative solutions to help children and young people both in Riga and across Latvia. Thanks to your work, our society and government institutions have gained awareness that children and young people can struggle with mental health problems and that they require specialized psychiatric support.
Children and young people's mental health problems tend to be as diverse as children and young people themselves. The symptoms can vary greatly - they can manifest as uncontrollable aggression or deep depression, anorexia or eating disorders with resulting obesity, self-injury or injuring and tormenting other people or living creatures.
Over the last decade, a generation has grown up that has consciously experienced one crisis after another, which undeniably exacerbates mental health problems. It began with the COVID pandemic two years ago, which continues to this day. The COVID pandemic has generated negative pressures on mental health: extensively stay-at-home, social isolation from relatives and friends, remote learning, cramped living conditions, especially in families with a modest income, as well as a serious illness caused by the virus and deaths.
Since February of this year, there have been aggravated feelings of fear and insecurity due to Russia’s war against Ukraine, and its aggression against Ukrainian civilians, including children and young people.
As autumn begins, children and young people at home hear and feel their parents' concerns about the added financial burden due to higher costs of energy and food. Moreover, for several years now, children and young people have grown increasingly concerned about the adverse effects of climate change, which they will surely experience in their lifetime.
All of these crises preoccupy children and young people along with other natural changes – physical, emotional and hormonal changes during puberty. During such crisis situations, young people seek to escape them through alcohol, drugs and various psychotropic substances. Therefore, in order to help children and young people deal with a wide range of mental health problems, modern psychiatric care has become more specialized and tailored.
A whole array of highly educated specialists are available - psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, audio speech therapists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, art and music therapists, and nurses.
All of them are needed to provide individual and multidisciplinary counselling and therapy to children and young people both on an outpatient and inpatient basis. These professionals need attractive, comfortable spaces and modern support equipment. They should be available without delay, including via modern technological tools, such as Facetime and Whatsapp groups. This means that the resources of the medical staff will definitely have to be developed according to these needs.
Parents and families of children and young people play a pivotal role in helping address these problems, therefore they must also be involved in this process.
Today, the Children's Hospital Foundation is launching a donation campaign to fulfil a pressing need for a Children and Youth Mental Health Center.
I am truly thankful to every donor for your generosity and investment in setting up the center and contributing to a brighter future of Latvia.
I wish you all success and endurance in carrying out this mission!