Dr. Ivanka Živčić-Bećirević, Full Professor

Dr. Ivanka Živčić-Bećirević, Full Professor

Can We Discuss the Mental Health Crisis Among Students?

Preserving and improving the mental health of students is a paramount concern for modern universities. Over the past 10-15 years, there has been increasing discussion about the so-called "student mental health crisis." Most European and global universities have observed a continuous rise in the number of students experiencing mental health issues, particularly depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

In this lecture, the results of a long-term study on the psychological adaptation and mental health of students at the University of Rijeka will be presented, with a specific focus on the outcomes of monitoring students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The study was conducted in five phases, covering each pandemic wave and the spring of 2023. Approximately a thousand students were included in each phase, with repeated measurements for a smaller subset of students. Apart from the usual stressors faced by students, such as academic demands, financial difficulties, and potential separation from family, the pandemic introduced numerous additional sources of stress, including social isolation, remote learning, declining financial circumstances, and more. Consistent with data from many global universities, Croatia also saw a significant increase in stress experiences, anxiety symptoms, and depression in the general population during the pandemic, especially among adolescents and young adults. While the normalization of life and work has somewhat stabilized the prevalence of mental difficulties among students, it has unfortunately not led to their reduction.

The mental health of students is closely linked to their academic functioning. Because of the reciprocal relationship between psychological issues and impaired academic achievement, early identification of students with problems and the implementation of effective interventions are highly valuable. Easily accessible, free psychological support and assistance for students with various psychological challenges should be a priority for every university. The increased number of students facing psychological difficulties, along with reduced stigma, has also led to greater interest in psychological treatment services. Reducing the gap between students' needs and interests on one hand, and the capacity to provide psychological treatments on the other, presents a contemporary challenge for universities worldwide. In this context, we will briefly introduce the organization, experiences, and results of the University Counseling Center at the University of Rijeka over its 25 years of operation.

Dr. Ivanka Živčić-Bećirević served as a full professor at the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka until 2022. During her tenure, she led several courses in clinical psychology at the graduate, postgraduate specialist, and doctoral levels. She was also the head of the Postgraduate specialist study program in Psychological Counseling at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka. Dr. Živčić-Bećirević has published numerous scientific and professional papers in national and international journals, book chapters, and one professional monograph. She has presented over 100 communications at scientific and professional conferences. For many years, she has been dedicated to working with students, education, research, and providing psychological treatment to students dealing with adjustment problems and mental disorders. She led several scientific projects aimed at examining and monitoring the mental health of students. She was one of the founders of the University Counselling Center at the University of Rijeka and served as its head for 23 years. She is the President of the Croatian Association for Behavioral-Cognitive Therapies and conducts education and supervision in behavioral-cognitive therapy in Croatia and Slovenia. She currently serves as the Chair of the National Awarding Committee of the EuroPsy European Certificate in Psychology.

Dr. Zvonimir Galić, Full Professor

Dr. Zvonimir Galić, Full Professor

Department of Psychology Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb

What Jobs Make Us Happy and Successful? The SUPERB Model of Job Quality and an Overview of New Research on Work Quality in Croatia

The connection between humans and work is fundamental, as it is one of the key features of human nature to invest our energy into activities directed toward a goal, namely, work. In contemporary society, work is most commonly integrated into human life through jobs, which, alongside family obligations, represent the central activity in most people's lives. Simultaneously, a considerable number of individuals are dissatisfied and unproductive in their workplaces, prompting them to leave organizations or emigrate in search of better job opportunities and futures.

In this lecture, I will present our approach to researching job quality, based on the assumption that jobs are as good as they satisfy our fundamental psychological needs. Within our research group, we developed the SUPERB job model to consolidate more than 50 years of research in the field of work psychology into a single theoretical framework. According to this model, aspects crucial for motivation and productivity at the workplace include economic and psychological safety (Safety), continuous psychological development at work (referred to as Upgrading), a sense of purpose and meaningfulness in tasks (Purpose), self-directed management (Empowerment), meaningful interpersonal workplace relationships (Relationships), and achieving a work-life balance (Balance). Additionally, I will present various studies where we have linked SUPERB job characteristics to job satisfaction, workplace engagement, and the intention to resign or emigrate from Croatia.

The key finding of these studies, conducted on nationally representative cohorts of Croatian employees, reveals that while salary is important, it is not the decisive factor for well-being and motivation at work. Job satisfaction, workplace engagement or lack thereof, and the intention to resign are equally or even more contingent on the extent to which psychological needs are met, or in other words, how well the job aligns with the "SUPERB" criteria. In conclusion, I will offer recommendations on how to structure jobs and work environments to better cater to essential psychological needs, thereby empowering the potential for preventive activities within workplace organizations.

Keywords: job quality, SUPERB job quality model, intention to resign, emigration, job satisfaction

Dr. Zvonimir Galić is a full professor and the head of the Department of Work Psychology at the Department of Psychology of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. His primary research interests are related to motivation and decision-making in organizational and consumer behavior. After completing his doctoral degree in psychology at the University of Zagreb, he furthered his research at Purdue University (Fulbright's Post-Doctoral Research Award) and the Australian National University, Research School of Management (Endeavour Postdoctoral Fellowship). His research has been published in reputable international journals, and he has delivered numerous invited lectures at foreign higher education institutions. He has led two research projects funded by the Croatian Science Foundation ("Implicit Personality and Work Behavior" 2014–2017, "Implicit Personality, Decision-Making and Leadership in Organizations" 2018–2023). He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Vocational Behavior, the International Journal of Selection and Assessment, and the Journal of Personnel Psychology. He co-leads the university postgraduate specialist program in Human Resource Management jointly offered by the Faculty of Economics and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb.

Dr. Silvija Ručević, Full Professor

Dr. Silvija Ručević, Full Professor

Department of Psychology Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Osijek

From Adverse Circumstances to Success – Strengthening Executive Functions and Resilience in Children

Adverse life circumstances during childhood, such as exposure to traumatic events, poverty, or family stressors, can have deep and lasting, often negative, consequences on a child's development. However, it is essential to recognize that some children, despite these negative experiences, manage to progress and fulfill their potential, ultimately achieving success. Resilience and executive functions play a crucial role in this process. Resilience in children refers to their ability to endure adversity and recover from difficult situations, demonstrating emotional strength and adaptability. On the other hand, executive functions are cognitive skills that help children make decisions and effectively manage challenges. Resilience and executive functions in children are intertwined and complementary aspects of their development. Encouraging and strengthening resilience and the development of executive functions through daily activities, early intervention, and support systems are key to a child's long-term well-being and success.

Dr. Silvija Ručević is a faculty member at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Josip Juraj Strossmayer University in Osijek, where she teaches courses in psychometrics and social psychology. Her scientific work primarily focuses on studying psychopathic personality traits, risky and socially unacceptable behavior, and executive functions in children and youth. She has published many scientific papers and has been the leader and collaborator on numerous projects (Croatian Science Foundation, Adris Foundation, FP7 Project, scientific research projects within the framework of Croatian-Slovenian cooperation, and ERASMUS K2). She has received two awards from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Osijek for her scientific activity. In addition to her scientific work, she collaborates with numerous civil society organizations focused on human rights protection and working with marginalized groups.

Dr. Tijana Mirović

Dr. Tijana Mirović

Counseling Center Mozaik Schema Therapy Center Belgrade

Empowering the Potential for Preventive Activities in Trauma-Impacted Communities

Over the past decades, we have experienced a series of traumatic events: wars, displacement and migrations, economic crises and poverty, political and legal upheavals, floods, pandemics, and various personal hardships. Some of us have been victims and witnesses of violence or discrimination, lost our jobs, health, or homes, and even lost loved ones. As these events unfolded one after another over an extended period, there was little chance to process them fully, let alone achieve full recovery. Existing resources were consistently depleted, and the limited opportunities hindered the development of new ones. When resources and protective mechanisms are weak, and exposure to traumatic events is prolonged and recurrent, there is a high risk of developing complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD). Considering the extent to which we have been exposed to diverse forms of trauma, the question of preventing cPTSD becomes one of the central concerns in mental health care. While we typically have no control over whether traumas will occur, a crucial aspect of cPTSD prevention revolves around the building and strengthening of resources. However, efforts aimed at enhancing and building resources within the community are more of an exception than the rule, despite the daily endeavors of psychologists and psychotherapists to empower their clients' personal resources. In that sense, the topic of this year's conference is not only important but also crucial.

Based on this thesis and topic, the lecture aims to outline the challenges faced by individuals and communities affected by trauma and to explore possibilities for the prevention of further and deeper traumas and problems by strengthening and building personal and communal resources. The first part of the lecture will focus on understanding cPTSD and analyzing how historical, transgenerational, and developmental trauma are recognized, manifested, and treated in our cultural, historical, and clinical settings. In the second part, we will present some empirically validated treatments for cPTSD. Particular emphasis will be placed on schema therapy, whose primary goal is to work with developmental and complex trauma, helping clients meet unmet basic (developmental) needs by changing long-standing and repetitive cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, and behavioral patterns. Since we view development and mental health systemically, as phenomena inseparable from the broader community, we will also discuss the social context. This will include an exploration of both positive social initiatives and harmful practices within our environment. We hope that this will open up space for collective reflection and discussion on how to further empower the potential for preventive activities in trauma-impacted communities. We would like this collective reflection to catalyze collective action, transforming us into a resource that strengthens not only our own communities but also our entire region.

Keywords: prevention, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, schema therapy, trauma-impacted community, resources

Dr. Tijana Mirović holds a doctoral degree in psychological sciences and is a certified advanced-level schema therapist, trainer, and supervisor, a rational-emotive-behavioral psychotherapist (Associate Fellow of Albert Ellis Institute), and a systemic family psychotherapist. Until 2019, she worked as an associate professor in the field of psychology at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, from which she resigned to fully dedicate herself to private practice, which she established in 2009. Dr. Mirović founded the Counseling Center "Mozaik” in Belgrade, where she currently works as the program director, psychotherapist, educator, mediator, and editor-in-chief of publications issued by Mozaik and the Schema Therapy Center Belgrade (which she also founded). Within the framework of the Schema Therapy Center Belgrade (the first accredited and internationally recognized schema therapy training center in the region), Dr. Mirović has been working since 2016 as the director, program director, trainer, and supervisor, providing training and supervision in the countries of former Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, and Egypt. Within the International Society of Schema Therapy, she serves as the National and Regional Certification Coordinator, a member of the Supervisor Skills Development Committee, and a member of the Case Conceptualization Committee. Besides her academic and psychotherapeutic work, Dr. Mirović has been engaged in social activism in the field of mental health since 1997 through her own initiatives and projects, as well as through collaboration with numerous organizations in the region. Dr. Mirović is the conceptual creator and initiator of the project Trauma – Our Story, the author and host of the series Heroes of Trauma and ZOOMing in on Trauma. She is also the author/co-author of schema therapy cards, three books, seven book chapters, and numerous scientific papers on psychotherapy and trauma.