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Mental Health Issues Could Worsen

According to a report by the State of the Nation and Public Policies and conducted by the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), isolation, uncertainty about the future, loss and mourning may create feelings of anxiety and depression. However, these symptoms are thought to be short term effects in relation to the instability many now face. The report goes on to say that mental disorders that develop or worsen in the coming months are of particular concern due to the serious social and economic factors impacting on the population in general and their associated affects which include poverty, unemployment, precariousness, insecurity, and debt.

The analysis was undertaken by health economist and hospital manager Ana Sofia Ferreira, psychiatrist Manuela Silva, from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon, and Julian Perelman, from the National School of Public Health. Their analysis highlights the fact that Portugal is currently in 5th place, among OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), in the use of antidepressants with a particularly high consumption of anxiolytics (used to treat anxiety disorders).

Furthermore, people with severe mental disorders (about 4% of the population) are “the most vulnerable” in society who are often ignored, stigmatized, hidden, and have been mistreated and misunderstood for centuries. While current scientific evidence shows that their treatment must be based on clinical support and integrated psycho-social care programmes provided by community and multidisciplinary teams, as recommended in the National Programme for Mental Health (PNSM), for a number of reasons in Portugal their treatment continues to be limited to drugs, and sufferers are often left without access to a psycho-social rehabilitation projects, preventing them from developing skills and living fully in today’s society.

Researchers believe that it is essential to improve the response of Primary Health Care and Continued Integrated Mental Health Care and use hospitals only as a last resort. Hospitals are obliged to care for those who have chronic mental health issues, often for years at a time, and many believe that alternative solutions need to be create which will not only save money but benefit the patient as well.

In order to respond to these cases, the National Network of Integrated Continuing Mental Health Care (RNCCISM) was created in 2010. “However, it was derailed in 2011 and has yet to gather momentum. Although mental health is considered a health priority and the National Mental Health Plan (PNSM 2007-2016) was established and later extended to 2020, due to” the lack of political momentum, adequate financing and capacity to implement the necessary changes, has so far prevented the achievement of the intended objectives.

As in all things, everything depends on funding and political will.  At a time when there are so many other worthy calls on public spending it primarily depends on the politicians to create a better future for mental health sufferers.

Samantha Gannon

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