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Astra Forum Foundation held a meeting with students and professors from Stara Zagora on 04.03.2023. The subject was once again – mental health. The date of the event was not by chance – 4 April is the mental health specialists’ day.

Our conversations were aimed at preventing stress at the workplace, how to recognize “burnout” and what are the group sessions with psychotherapists, which we organize as a pilot initiative in Sofia, supported by UNICEF.

This is the second meeting with students from medical universities in the country and the Foundation will continue organizing events with students, in order to inform them about prevention of stress at the workplace.


Increasing amount of studies show that young doctors, including medical students, are twice as threatened of burnout, compared to older medical specialists.

In the national study for education by General Medical Council in 2021, one third of the interns reported they felt “burned out”, as a consequence of their work, more than during the pre-pandemic years.

The Foundation team asked two questions during the event. The first one being: “What do you associate good mental health with?”, and the second one: “Are you prepared for constant stress at your future workplace?”.

The first question received various answers, according to every person’s beliefs. Some believed that good mental health means balance between family and work, others thought it means harmony with nature. Another answer was that mental health means professional satisfaction.

However, what makes an impression is that many of the students answered the second question with a “yes”.


Astra Forum Foundation made several suggestions:

  • Stress can not be a norm.
  • The pressure can not be a standard.
  • Ignoring your loved ones should not be due to work.
  • Love can not wait until you reach your professional peak.
  • Rest does not mean lack of dedication for the profession.
  • Psychotherapy is not a shameful thing, and it does not mean you are “crazy”.
  • Start preserving yourself TODAY.


Another important topic was interpersonal communication between doctor and patient, presented by Momchil Baev, founder and chairman of Astra Forum Foundation. “Healthcare workers have a key role in maintaining the public trust in immunization”, he added.

How to influence the patient’s opinion?

It is important to have short conversations, over a long period of time, if necessary. It is also important to show the patient that the topic is open for discussion.

First: Define the patient’s mindset – does he approve of the vaccines, or does he take an “anti-vaccine” position, is he hesitant, interested and so on.

Second: Find the reasons for their concerns – there are many variants – they could be open to vaccines, but trying to postpone it for different reasons.

Third: Concentrate on their concerns – ask them about any side effects, share your experiences, ask questions. “What? How? Tell me…” are very appropriate open questions. Besides that, you need to listen to the patient, to show interest for what they have to say, to show respect towards their values and intentions.

Fourth: Ask for permission before laying out the facts. Share your knowledge and try to build trust.

Fifth: Highly recommend vaccination, but try to avoid confrontation. Entering an argument would make it much more difficult for them to believe and trust you. Show wisdom!

Sixth: Inform them about the risks of refusal of immunization.

The publication “Interpersonal communication. Handbook for healthcare workers” was introduced at the event.

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