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Frontpage News 2012 Mental healthcare in Romania


Mental healthcare for Romanian children

  • It is estimated that one in five children and adolescents suffer from a mental health problem. Recent reform initiatives of mental healthcare in Romania are now continuing in collaboration with Save the Children.

    "Our aims are to work with these children outside hospitals and not put them under psychiatric medication, but rather prevent a disease from developing at an early phase through counselling and theraph", says Gabriela Alexandrescu, Executive President of Save the Children Romania. In 2009, Save the Children secured funds from the EEA and Norway Grants to establish a unique Centre for Children's Mental Health in Bucharest and education programmes for parents across the country.

    Significant improvements have been made in Romania in the past four years within the field of mental health care, with increasing recognition of the problem and more government funding. Alternatives to in-patient mental healthcare for children and young people have particularly increased and the Director of the National Mental Health and Addictions Centre, Ileana Botezat-Antonescu, welcomes the new additions from Save the Children

    Learning centre
    With €800,000 in support from Norway and premises donated by the Romanian Commercial Bank, Save the Children opened Romania's first centre for children's mental health in December last year. The centre, centrally located in Bucharest, offers counselling and guidance by psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and psycho pedagogues free of charge to families of and children with mental health problems.

    Parents can contact the centre directly, and by word-of mouth its services are already in great demand. 270 children and youth have already received individual counselling or group therapy – from 6-year olds with ADHD, 11-year olds battling eating disorders to teenagers facing depression or social anxiety. 170 parents have participated in counselling to learn how to best work with their children. The 13 staff at the centre are expected to provide individual counselling or group therapy to another 350 children and youth in 2010.

    International expertise
    To train the staff at the new centre and add to the pool of qualified professionals within child mental health care in Romania, Save the Children Romania involved Save the Children Norway. The Norwegian NGO's South-East European office put its Romanian colleagues in contact with regional experts through study trips to child-friendly institutes for mental health in Belgrade and Zagreb. Tommaso Diegoli of Save the Children Norway says the aim was to find a model from a neighbouring country that could be easily adaptable to Romania. The answer lay in Serbia. "The approach which is now brand new in Romania imitates the one of the Institute of Mental Health in Belgrade. Doctor Veronika Išpanović-Radojković, a globally recognised expert in child mental health, was kind enough to show us how the institute works and she is still in regular contact with the centre in Bucharest", explains Diegoli.

    Parent education
    In parallel to the learning centre in capital Bucharest, and to ensure a nation-wide outreach to parents of children with mental health problems, Save the Children is rolling out a €1.7 million EEA Grants project. Parent education centres will be set up in five major cities and their surrounding areas: Bucharest, Iaşi, Suceava, Târgu Mureş, and Timişoara. Teams of psychologists, psychiatrists, school counsellors, social workers and nurses will work with parents of children and teenagers with mental health problems and carry out capacity building for employees within the local healthcare, education and social protection services.

    In a mapping exercise carried out by Save the Children between July and October 2009, kindergarten and school teachers, psychologists and paediatricians across Romania expressed a need for capacity building and a lack of referral options when faced with a child in need of clinical evaluation. A large number of local schools and the Romanian Association of Family Doctors and Paediatricians have signed up to participate and will help worried parents get in contact with the new service. "Our aim this year is to target and attract 200 families to these new parental centres in order to enhance the quality of care of vulnerable children and teens in their own families", Alexandrescu says.

    Photo credit: George Roman, Save the Children Romania

  • Country:


    Project title:

    Towards positive healthy parenting in Romanian families

    Case number:


    Priority sector:

    Health and childcare


    € 2 483 100 (both projects)



    Type & project assistance:

    Individual Project

    Project promoter:

    Save the Children Norway & Save the Children Romania

    Type of institution:

    Non-governmental organisations

    Project duration:

    22 months

    Project cost:

    € 1,870,350

    Grant rate:


    Grant from:

    EEA and Norway Grants

    Grant agreement date:

    19 August 2009

    The purpose of the Project is to develop an operational network of parenting services in urban and rural areas delivering specialised assistance for parents and their children and enhance the human resources capacity in this field, with the overall objective to contribute to the improvement of the quality of mental health care service provision for children in Romania. Reference is made to the application dated 11 June 2008, and to any subsequent correspondence with the Focal Point.

    The completed Project shall include the following activities and results:

    - establishment of five parenting service centres in Bucharest, Timisoara, Iasi, Suceava, Târgu Mures, and purchase and installation of equipment and furniture;

    - development of the training packages and provision of training for professionals;

    - provision of information, education and intervention services for parents and community members;

    - dissemination of information;

    - project management and publicity.

    The Project Promoter is the Save the Children Romania/Salvati Copiii Romania.

    The Focal Point shall ensure that the Project Promoter provides at least 10,01 percent of the total estimated eligible Project costs.