Mental health and suicide prevention


(Dan Meyers, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Vasiliki Nektaria Vlachogianni, a 3rd-year medical student, in University of Thessaly,
Greece . She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Therefore, mental health and physical health are closely linked and should not be thought of as separate.

Problematic physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health disorders. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, for example neglecting to take medication for chronic diseases, having poor personal sense of health etc.   Consequently the importance of mental health and its interdependence with physical health makes it an important issue of public health that concerns all of us.

Αccording to a World Health Organization study, every 40 seconds a person ends his life. In total, nearly 800,000 people commit suicide each year. Additionally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in Eastern Europe. Suicide rates in Greece remain relatively low in relation to Europe, with five suicides per 100,000 people compared to a region wide average of 15.4 per 100,000 people, according to World Health Organization data from 2016, which is the most recent research available. However the suicide rate in Greece, seems to be increasing, since it spiked from 3.3 to 5 people per 100,000 from 2010 to 2016.

In Greece, according to the Doctors of the World, there are 19 psychiatric beds per 100,000 inhabitants, while the average rate in the rest of  European countries is 73 / 100,000. There is not an integrated system of mental health services and there seems to be a lack of cross-sectoral coordination and provision of specialized services. Psychiatric clinics are burdened with a large number of patients leading to inadequate results in treating them, while at the same time there are gaps in funding and staff shortages, as well as deficiencies in the intercultural approach.

However, “Psychargos  program” 2000 – 2010, a governmental program that concerns mental health, has largely succeeded in closing long-term psychiatric hospitals, de-institutionalizing the majority of patients and establishing psychiatric services as a part of general hospitals.The “Psychargos III program” that was scheduled to cover the period 2011-2020 though is still largely incomplete.  Specific mental health services concerning both primary and specialised care for children, adolescents, people with autism and intellectually disabled people are still inadequate in Greece and need further improvement.

But, why do people decide to put an end to their lives? A person’s wish to die is his last resort in order to put an end to his anxiety and mental pain, since he/she believes that this is the only solution that will give him some control over his life. Suicide is not a choice. It is a desperate reaction an not only is it not a choice, but it can also be the result of serious depression, one of the most common mental disorders worldwide.

It is found that 90% of self-destructive behaviors worldwide could have been prevented. This prevention can be achieved by allocating more funds in improving mental health services,  organizing  relevant to well-being interventions and actions, as well as reforming health, education and work mechanisms.

Considering all the above, it is our duty as human beings and as active citizens to keep safe and alive the people who, under the burden of mental pain, decide to commit suicide. We cannot continue to be passive recipients of suicide news.Talking to someone is often the first step to take when you know they are going through a hard time.

About the author

Vasiliki Nektaria Vlachogianni is a 3rd-year medical student, in University of Thessaly,
Greece. She is an active member in Hellenic Medical Students' International Committee (HelMSIC) and this year is her third term as a Local Officer on Human Rights and Peace. Moreover, she is a Peer Education trainer specialized on human rights issues and is passionate about human rights, wanting to defend them in every possible way.



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