Training for Professional Staff of Mental Health Centers and Centers for Social Work of Zenica-Doboj Canton on Supporting LGBTI Persons

Two one-day trainings on LGBTI inclusive psychosocial support and mental health services were held in Zenica on June 10 and 11 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 of the Zenica-Doboj Canton, from Zenica, Zavidovići, Maglaj, Breza, and Vareš.

Darko Pandurević from Sarajevo Open Centre lectured on the topic of human rights of LGBTI people, LGBTI identity, discrimination, and equality. 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, or 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 Jakić and Marija Šarić, also the director of 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.

The conclusions reached during this part of the lecture are that the LGBTI community has the same problems as the society as a whole, but has additional problems related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, and that psychological violence is the most difficult because it is not easy to prove and difficult to deal with. Participants expressed a desire for the cooperation of institutions with SOC and the Wings of Hope to provide support in their work, 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

As part of the training, three LGBTIQ+ persons shared their experiences of the difficulties faced on a daily basis by a lesbian, gay man and bisexual person, in the form of a human library, which proved to be an effective way for professionals, psychologists and social workers to directly hear about the needs of LGBTIQ+ persons and the ways in which they can provide them with the highest quality services.

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.

Similar trainings are planned to be held in Banja Luka and Tuzla, and at the same time training for civil society organizations in Prijedor, Banja Luka, Zenica, Bijeljina, and Tuzla.

For more information about the project, please contact:

Delila Hasanbegović Vukas, Programme Coordinator, Sarajevo Open Centre

Tel: 033 551 000

E-mail: [email protected]