Letter from Prague

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Well, it seems fall is really here. In Prague that means early morning fogs that linger on until noon, sometimes even longer and just a hint of the sun somewhere behind the cloudy sky in the afternoons. It's amazing, how fast the weather changes, and how unexpectedly. Just a week ago today it was lovely, we were having a beautiful Indian Summer, which, by the way, is called "babi leto" in Czech, meaning "old women's summer" - not half as romantic as Indian Summer. Anyway, that's gone and with the weather getting worse people's moods are doing much the same. You never hear as many people complaining about headaches as you do once the fogs set in. And psychiatrists say that it's the season of depressions, clinical depressions, I mean, which is much more than just a bad mood. But that does not mean that more people visit psychiatrists. Not at all. While any Czech will see a dentist, or any other doctor if he needs to see one, most people do not have the same attitude towards psychiatrists. There's still this stigma connected with mental health problems, especially in the country and in smaller towns. If you're not careful, you'll be considered crazy, or nuts is probably the better word in this case. Not even the institution of psycho-analysts has caught up with us, or rather the fashion of having one and seeing him regularly. With all the stress people here have, and have had for years, untreated psychological problems are very frequent. To such a degree that bigger cities have set up anonymous psychiatric help lines. If you're desperate, if you feel you just cannot cope, you can visit one of those centers and professionals will deal with your problem without asking your name or address. I don't really know how much good they can do without knowing anything about your background, but they say they can tell a lot by what you tell them yourself and above all the way you tell them. And this kind of help is certainly better than nothing at all. It's obviously the first step. It is a fact that after the terrorist attacks on the United States and due to the threats of biological and chemical warfare, many people will be in a situation where they do need help. Fear and tensions are growing and people seem to be more nervous than the usual end of Indian Summer would warrant. Not a very happy or content time, I'm afraid. And not a very happy letter from Prague, I should add. I must do something to change that mood. So, let's see, what happy event have I witnessed recently? Here's something I heard - it seems that a bear living wild in Southern Moravia has managed to arrange his life in a way that suits all concerned. In the Spring he kept drawing near to the villages, even stealing honey from villagers' hives. And he kept coming so close people started being afraid of him and seemed that he might have to be shot. Well, he hasn't been heard of for weeks, apparently he's settled down deep in the forest, getting ready for a nice winter sleep, which is something I'd love to do if I could. But, back to the bear, he has obviously saved his life by shying away from people. Which is not exactly the happy note on which I wanted to end today's letter from Prague.

Author: Olga Szantová
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