1/4 of Poles suffer from mental disorders according to official data from the Ombudsman’s report. This means that in an average family of 4, one person is struggling with the disease. The current times of pandemic and isolation do not affect these statistics positively. It is now that we need to take special care of our own psyche and that of our loved ones.
The most common disorders are chronic anxiety, which affects every sixth person in Poland, and depression, which affects as much as 10% of the entire population. Some of these disorders significantly impair quality of life and can even lead to disability, as mental disorders and neurological diseases together account for ¼ of all disabilities causes. Meanwhile, according to the Depression Experts Team at the Ministry of Health, only half of those struggling with the disease receive actual help. Why?
The main reason is the marginalization of the topic of mental problems and the shame associated with the treatment. Poles consider the subject of mental disorders a taboo, something that absolutely cannot be spoken about aloud, that must be kept hidden to avoid stigmatization. To raise public awareness of the problem, back in 1949, the Mental Health America association declared May a Mental Health Month. This is the time of the year when countless campaigns are organised around the world to promote mental health care and fight against harmful stereotypes about the mentally ill. On this occasion, it is worth taking a look at how the situation in Pomerania looks in this regard.
Only a few years ago, statistics on the mental health of Pomeranian residents were alarming. The mortality rate due to these diseases amounted to 9.8/100 thousand of the population and was higher than the national by 113%, which put Pomerania in the shameful second place in Poland. The prognosis for the future was not optimistic, so it became crucial to take immediate and extensive action.
The Pomeranian Mental Health Team has been established and is responsible for the local implementation of the National Mental Health Programme 2017-2022. As a result of the activities of this Team, in Pomerania were established Mental Health Centres offering comprehensive assistance to residents, i.e:
- Psychological and psychiatric counselling
- Individual and group therapy
- Social interventions
- Psychiatric day hospitalisation
Residents of Pomerania can use the services of the Mental Health Center at four locations:
- ul. Traugutta 9, Gdynia
- ul.Jaskółcza 7/15, Gdańsk
- Aleja Niepodległości 748, Sopot
- ul. Obrońców Wybrzeża 4, Słupsk
However, the mere availability of psychological counselling is not enough. People affected by mental disorders face more than just the shame of admitting their problems. Often they simply do not know who to go to for help. Psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist – what exactly do they do and who to choose?
A psychologist is a person who has completed a 5-year course in psychology and has earned a master’s degree. Depending on the specialization chosen during studies and the subsequent training and courses, a psychologist may deal with, for example, support for people in crisis, psychological diagnosis or help children with school difficulties. The psychologist can issue judgments or opinions to the court, however, he cannot prescribe medications, issue medical certificates or referral to specialists. Psychological help is usually based on one or more consultations regarding the problem with which the patient reports.
A psychotherapist is someone who has graduated from university (medical or other, not necessarily psychology) and a school of psychotherapy and has been certified to conduct the therapy. The path to obtaining it primarily involves a clinical internship and undergoing your own psychotherapy. Thanks to psychotherapy, it is possible to treat mental disorders such as depression, but also to make positive changes in functioning. Psychotherapy is a series of meetings held regularly (usually once a week) over a period from several months to several years (depending on the stream of psychotherapy and the problems with which the patient copes). The psychotherapist does not issue prescriptions for drugs.
A psychiatrist is a person who has completed medical school with a speciality in psychiatry. The person is a doctor, therefore she/he has the ability to make diagnoses, prescribe medications, make referrals and issue sick leave. If the psychiatrist deems it necessary to implement pharmacotherapy, treatment may take at least several months. In order to use the services of the National Health Fund, you need to obtain a referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist from your family doctor. However, it is not necessary for a visit to a psychiatrist.
So who to choose: a psychologist or a psychiatrist, or perhaps a psychotherapist? That’s actually less important. The most important thing is to ask for help, and which specialist we go to, does not determine the form of treatment. If we choose a psychologist or psychotherapist and they deem it necessary, they will refer us to a psychiatrist. Similarly, a psychiatrist will advise psychotherapy if they feel it will be appropriate in your case.
What to look for when choosing a particular psychotherapist or psychiatrist? Education is especially important. This is especially true for psychotherapists as this profession is not regulated by law in Poland. It is therefore worth checking where the psychotherapist studied and whether he has a certificate issued by the Polish Psychological Association or an association of therapists from particular schools (e.g. Polish Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies). It is important whether the psychotherapist submits his work to supervision, that is, regular consultation of his work with a more experienced psychotherapist. This allows him/her to hone professional skills, better help patients and not project his/her own emotions onto them.
Let’s remember that the current pandemic situation is particularly difficult for those suffering from mental health problems. More than half of them experienced a deterioration of their mental health as a result of the pandemic – reports the Nencki Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The mere feeling that the state of our mental condition has deteriorated is a compelling argument to schedule a consultation with a specialist. Keep in mind that you should observe carefully not only yourself but also your relatives, co-workers and friends – people affected by mental disorders often suffer in silence.
A case of pandemic
In times of pandemic, online consultation has become widely available, so we can get mental health advice without even leaving the house. You can also get help by calling one of the hotlines that are staffed by professionals:
Forum Against Depression Helpline – tel. 22 594 91 00 (open every Wednesday – Thursday from 5pm – 7pm)
Helpline for adults in emotional crisis – tel. 116 123 (Monday – Friday 2pm – 10pm)
ITAKA – Antidepressant Helpline
tel. 22 484 88 01
Psychologist on duty:
Monday 3pm – 8pm, Tuesday 3pm – 8pm, Wednesday 10am – 3pm, Friday 10am – 3pm, Sunday 3pm – 8pm
Psychiatrists on duty:
Thursday 4pm – 9pm, Friday 3pm – 8pm
Psychological First Aid via Phone
tel. 22 425 98 48 (Monday – Friday from 5pm – 8pm / Saturday from 3pm – 5pm)
Although the month of May is almost over it does not mean we should wait till next year to take care of our mental help. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help!