Behaviorálny a experimentálny ekonomický tím MZSR

Mental Health

Mental health is one of the priority projects of the Behavioral and Experimental Economics Team. We started to work on mental health as a result of our professional collaboration with the OECD on the project Secondary impacts of Covid-19.

As part of the OECD project, together with the Student Council of Universities (SCU), we distributed the following materials to students at universities in Slovakia questionnaire analysing the mental well-being of university students and motivations and barriers to seeking mental help.

Survey carried out on a sample of 5 403 respondents (university students in Slovakia) showed that The Covid-19 pandemic had a major negative impact on the mental health of college students. Research has shown that:

  • 53% of respondents suffer from moderately severe symptoms of depression,
  • 40% of respondents experience moderately severe symptoms of anxiety and
  • Only 4% of all respondents did not suffer from any form of anxiety.

The research also identified motivations and barriers to seeking professional psychological help, suggesting that students prefer free, anonymous, informal psychological support and a clearly defined pathway to help from nearby institutions, such as a college or university.

Read more about these and other findings in the study Analysis of the mental well-being of young people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results of the research, as well as the persistent causes of mental discomfort (the fading pandemic has been replaced by anxiety about the war in Ukraine and the existential threat of rising inflation), motivated us to create a peer mental support system, Buddy System.   

Within the Buddy system, they can students experiencing difficulties related to studies, career, or mental well-being contact another student-buddy who is trained by professionals in the field of psychology.

A student trained in this way can provide the necessary support or help to find a route to more specialist help. Compared to other peer support programmes, the Buddy system stands out because participants will be regularly retrained by psychology professionals.

The peer mental support system also received significant support in our survey. The results showed that:

  • 75% of respondents requested more information about the Buddy System,
  • 15% of respondents expressed an interest in becoming a buddy and
  • 12% of respondents were interested in buddy.

These figures indicate an interest on the part of students in such an intellectual support tool. We have also introduced and consulted with by the Student Council for Higher Education (USC), whose General Assembly identified the Buddy System as a beneficial project and expressed its support for it.

We also presented the Buddy system at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Slovak Republic, where it also received support.

The Buddy system was introduced at the University of Pavol Jozef Šafárik in Košice (UPJŠ) in 2022. Since the introduction of the Buddy system at UPJŠ, 30 students (25 students in Slovak and 5 in English) from all faculties of UPJŠ have been trained.

The Buddy system has thus become one of the integral parts of the care for the mental well-being of UPJŠ students.. Thanks to the experience at UPJŠ, all the documents necessary to extend the Buddy system to other universities in Slovakia have been prepared.             

One of the most important findings to emerge from our survey in terms of statistical significance is that students with more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety prefer to seek help anonymously.

Therefore, in parallel with the Buddy system, we have created online platform www.emental.skwhich aims to extend the Buddy system to the online space and umbrella it across the colleges and universities involved in the Buddy System. Because of the aforementioned demand for online anonymity, students experiencing difficulties can use the platform to seek out and contact Buddy from your faculty or college.

As part of the Buddy System project, the documents needed for the training have been developed.

9.11.2023 took place meeting of the working group under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, which aims to develop, consult and regularly update professional, administrative and training materials to reflect the diversity of universities. Representatives of colleges interested in the Buddy System were present. The first training sessions were held at the participating colleges.

In the winter semester of the 2023/2024 academic year, we launched the Buddy system at interested colleges.