Did you know that 1 in 270 people in the world has an autism spectrum disorder? Diagnosis varies from country to country, and people with autism often encounter strong stigma and taboo, especially in developing countries. How is the mental health of people who suffer from any of the autism spectrum disorders? One of Labyrinth 2030's projects focuses on people with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Psychologist Adam Táborský wants to use his idea to improve the mental health of children with autism and their caregivers, most often their parents, through outdoor therapy in Georgia.
We talked with Adam in an interview not only about autism but also about mental health in general.
What does mental health mean to you as a psychologist? Why is it important to take care of mental health as well as physical health?
Mental health is a duty. Everybody starts his life from a different point and we face different kinds of difficulties through our life journey, some of us repeatedly. This is the reason why it is important to take care of our mental health. Because if we do, we raise the quality of our life. We get more in touch with our feelings. We are in harmony with ourselves and then we choose the path we really want, let it be a weekend spent in a hammock at a cottage or eating one dumpling less for lunch.
Why is it important to address mental health in developing countries as well?
We can't understand mental health if we isolate it from the rest. We need to invoke the good of other people, just as we invoke the good for ourselves. Life is not a video game. We do not progress level by level, we do not overcome increasingly difficult obstacles, we do not die again and again and we are not reborn after.
Most people are partially satisfied and partially unsatisfied in all their basic needs at the same time. Maslow insisted that any behavior tended to be determined by several or all basic needs at once, not just one of them and that each of us could return to a certain state of mind at any time depending on the deprivation of need. So this is a process.
The human condition is not a competition - it is an experience. Life is not a route to the top, but a path that leads across the vast blue ocean, full of new opportunities for meaning and discovery, but also danger and uncertainty.
Why did you sign up for the Labyrinth 2030 contest with this very idea and why did you choose Georgia as your target country?
I came up with the idea because I perceive mental health as an essential basis for a good life and nature can help us with it. Georgia is the subject of interest not only in the development activities of the Czech Republic and non-profit organizations, but also Czechs are discovering Georgia from a tourist point of view in the last couple of years, so I thought it would be nice to add this aspect as well.
Is there a difference between working with the mental health of the people with autism spectrum disorder?
Regarding how I work with people with the autism spectrum disorder, I would like to say that, just like with everyone else - that is, creating an empathetic, warm environment and adapting to an individual pace.
Your project was the only one that was directly focused on mental health issues. But do other projects in the contest have the potential to improve mental health of their beneficiaries, too?
Both health in general and mental health need to be taken comprehensively. If I quit smoking, but at the same time continue to consume large amounts of alcohol, eat unhealthy and sleep little, it does not mean that I will be healthy. This is similar with mental health. Other projects also affect mental health, although not directly, but still they will ultimately bring joy to children, a sense of purpose and meaningfulness to people, a sense of control over the circumstances, and ultimately their lives.
Are you interested in how mental health is perceived in developing countries? We will be publishing a series of videos on Facebook from our missions where our colleagues will talk more about mental health in Iraq, Zambia, Mongolia and Georgia. Follow our Facebook page for more.