Experts warn against cuts in mental health

Mental healthcare experts on Tuesday cautioned against funding cutbacks to psychiatric facilities, invoking a study which found that 22 percent of people facing financial difficulties suffer from some form of mental distress and that the unemployed are at much greater risk than people who work of presenting symptoms of depression.

The findings of the study, which was conducted over the course of 2010, were presented on Tuesday by Stelios Stylianidis, a Panteion University social psychiatry professor and president of the World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation, in a special interview organized by the Argos network of mental health organizations.

The network was responding to a decision by the Finance Ministry in August to slash funding to the 210 state mental healthcare facilities operating in Greece by some 45 percent, from 82 million euros to 45 million euros, which experts say will inevitably lead to the closure of most of these units.

Stylianidis stressed that providing psychological support is crucial, especially during a financial crisis. In fact, recent data published in July found that the number of suicides in Greece had increased by 40 percent between 2007 and 2009, while the report cited by Stylianidis also suggested that 12 percent of people facing financial difficulties or ruin had expressed a ?death wish.?

The July study, published by British and American researchers in medical journal The Lancet, found that Greece was among several crisis-hit countries experiencing a spike in suicides.

?Countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides,? said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain?s Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Meanwhile, Argos announced that it will be organizing a protest rally on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Health Ministry near Omonia Square, and that it has lodged an appeal against the government?s decision with the European Commission, the Greek Ombudsman and mental healthcare foundations around the world, among others.

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