Mental health and social work professionals in Tuzla Canton trained for inclusive psychosocial support for LGBTI persons

Two one-day trainings on LGBTI inclusive psychosocial support and mental health services were held in Tuzla on November 18 and 19 as part of the European Union-funded project “Regionalising LGBTI Inclusive Psychosocial Support and Access to Mental Health Services in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” hosted by Sarajevo Open Centre. The participants were employees of the mental health centres and centres for social work in the Tuzla Canton. The participants were from the following towns/municipalities: Tuzla, Kladanj, Čelić, Živinice, Teočak, Kalesija and Banovići.

Darko Pandurević from Sarajevo Open Centre presented the topic of human rights of LGBTI persons, LGBTI identities, discrimination and equality, SOC legal counseling. During his presentation, he discussed certain identity determinants across the LGBTI spectrum, as well as the basic challenges of being a lesbian, gay man, bisexual, trans and intersex person, as well as challenges in the field of human rights and discrimination in various social spheres. Darko also discussed activism in public space and the LGBTI movement in BiH.

Sarajevo Open Centre’s project partner is the Wings of Hope Foundation from Sarajevo that works to improve social inclusion and strengthen women, children, youth, and other vulnerable groups through its mental health protection program, by promoting and protecting human rights, mental health, and educational support.

Psychologists/Gestalt psychotherapists Zvjezdana Savić and Marija Šarić from the Wings of Hope Foundation were lecturers in the second part of the training, where they discussed how to approach LGBTI persons in mental health and social care systems, in providing psychological support and counseling, the problems and needs of LGBTI persons and their family members, as well as the work with parents.

During the human library, participants had the opportunity to talk to LGBTI persons (gay and transgender men) about experiences of coming out, (non)acceptance through various spheres of society, seeking support from mental health professionals and generally within the health and legal system. This part of the training proved to be the most useful for the participants because, through direct contact with people who need support, with empathy and listening to personal stories, they can best understand their problems and needs and additionally sensitize to work with them.

Participants from these centres expressed a desire to cooperate with SOC and the Wings of Hope, but also common training sessions for these two institutions, both in providing support in their work and procedures, additional training and educational materials.

Some of the guidelines for inclusive psychosocial support are the following:

  • work on the practical inclusion of LGBTI persons in personal life and community
  • raising awareness of psychologists’/psychotherapists’ personal prejudices
  • involve family and friends
  • strengthen the role of the media and educational institutions
  • connect with organizations that provide support, activism, creative activities/performances

The project “Regionalising LGBTI inclusive psychosocial support and access to mental health services in Bosnia and Herzegovina” aims to create an environment in which LGBTI people are encouraged and supported to access social protection and mental health systems that offer inclusive and sensitized services. It is required to increase the capacity of social protection and mental health institutions, as well as to expand the institutional network of psychosocial support, in order to provide LGBTI people with access to such care. It is also vital to strengthen the capacities of civil society organizations that provide this type of service, as well as to train their employees on LGBTI topics.

So far, following this principle, mental health and social protection professionals were educated in Mostar, Zenica (Zenica-Doboj Canton) and Banja Luka (entity Republika Srpska).

For more information about the project, please contact Delila Hasanbegović Vukas, Programme Coordinator, Sarajevo Open Centre.

Tel: 033 551 000

E-mail: [email protected]