The first case of COVID-19 infection in Montenegro, recorded slightly later than in other countries, was registered on March 18th 2020. Montenegrin government entrusted the assessment and recommendations to public health experts, who introduced very rigorous measures even before there were any officially confirmed cases of infection.
This has helped keep the virus under control to the extent our healthcare system is able to cope.These measures included working bans for schools, colleges, kindergartens, cafes and all shops except food and drug stores, ban on public gatherings (only one person allowed at a time), ban on visiting other people’s homes, going to riverside and sea shores as well as visiting parks. Violation of these prohibitions is a criminal offense and has serious consequences.
Unfortunately, these rigorous measures can have many consequences on mental health, especially combined with the real fear of the disease. However, the public health experts estimated that the cultural concept, in which the social contacts, as well as physical closeness, are very important to Montenegrins, is a suitable ground for spreading the virus (the first infected persons transmitted the virus to over twenty people in just a few days, which is much more than what was the case in China, where one person infected up to three other people). Therefore, in the selection of measures, they favored physical health over mental health. Given the importance of social contacts already mentioned, we believe that psychotherapeutic support will be increasingly needed as isolation continues, as well as after termination of measures.
Given the fact that MonTa is a small association, nothing has significantly changed in our functioning. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we maintain contact and exchange experiences in working with clients. Most of our members individually contribute to the community in overcoming the crisis, namely: working on the hotline launched under supervision of the health system which is available to all citizens of Montenegro, involvement in field working the context of humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross and providing online therapy to the general population and to vulnerable groups such as women who have experienced domestic violence. Two of our members, in cooperation with colleagues from other psychotherapeutic modalities, created a collection of self-help exercises and made it available to the entire community.
As an association, we have organized online support for physicians and healthcare professionals. Our assessment was that health professionals were the most exposed, with the least support being offered to them. The support is organized as an online group therapy, led by the most experienced members of our association.
Information on this type of assistance has been promoted through the media and social networks to reach more people.
We anticipate an increase in the need for our services and engagement upon the end of pandemic.