In the month of December four focus groups on working inclusion of users of psychiatric services were held in Valjevo within the project ” UPSTREAM II – UPdate of Socialization and TREAtment of Mental health – part 2″ which is co-financed by the European Union through the IPA cross-border cooperation Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina and implemented by Caritas Valjevo and the Association of Mutual Assistance in mental distress “Phoenix” from Tuzla.

In order to obtain the qualitative data needed for a study dedicated to the socio-economic dimension of the issue, focus groups’ participants were divided into four groups according to the respective positions from which they approach the matter. The first group was composed of the users of Psychiatric service of Valjevo, the second one of their parents, the third one of professionals employed in the medical and social services, and the fourth one brought together entrepreneurs and directors of successful companies from Valjevo and Belgrade.

The users who participated in the focus group see their families as major support for everything, including the employment. They do not believe a lot in the help of others or the State. Generally, they think that they have to fight alone. Some of them have had bad experiences with employers, but primarily because of legal restrictions, i.e. medical reports which limit their ability to work.

“The first conclusion of professionals and entrepreneurs who participated in the focus groups is that there is a great lack of information and a lot of legal ambiguity when it comes to people with mental health problems. They consider that the term persons with mental health problems is rather generalized and that most people have insufficient knowledge and a lot of prejudice related to mental disorders. The result of ignorance and lack of knowledge among employers is a fear of hiring such persons, but most of the employers who took part in the focus group asserted that they would provide an opportunity to users of psychiatric services with adequate incentives and measures by the Government. The difficult economic situation and uncertain business conditions seems to be serious obstacles for employers, and the State should encourage the employment of persons who are at the margins of the society by introducing some tax incentives” says Snjezana Badric, Project Manager of the project UPSTREAM II.

The statistics of the World Health Organization say that every fourth person on the planet has suffered of a mental disorder during his lifetime, and several epidemiological studies confirm that the majority of somatic diseases are related to mental health. The results of the joint research on working inclusion of users of psychiatric services, which was conducted in Valjevo and Tuzla, will be significant and will provide guidelines for further work in the field of mental health and employment of persons with mental disabilities in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.