“Psychiatrists have an influx of people who are in great pain,” Katia Julienne, director-general of the French health ministry’s healthcare services department, warned during a webinar organised by France Assos Santé on 15 April.
While a psychological support unit was proposed in France during the first pandemic wave, psychiatrists preferred to focus on continuing to provide care during the second one. Psychiatrists “adapted” to the situation as they made use of mobile kits and gave consultations remotely, particularly to assist patients with the greatest difficulties, Julienne added.
The practice of ‘telemedicine’ is becoming increasingly popular in Europe.
In 2015, countries like Greece and Spain launched pilot programmes for remote psychiatric care, while Croatia, Italy and Lithuania had more informal initiatives, according to a study conducted by the World Health Organisation’s Global eHealth Observatory.
Operational telepsychiatry programmes only existed in Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden at the time the study was carried out.
In Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden, people are prone to depression, while France is the country with the highest rate of psychiatric disorders.
With the conference on psychiatry and mental health announced by President Emmanuel Macron, and due to start before the summer, this often neglected area of medicine is now one of the government’s concerns.
“If no urgent action is taken on mental health care, the demand for psychosocial support will inevitably increase, contributing to the 84 million people suffering from mental disorders in the European Union alone,” said Liuska Sanna, acting director of Europe’s largest independent mental health network organisation, Mental Health Europe.
“Vulnerable groups, including people with psychosocial disabilities, will pay a high price. We cannot wait for another pandemic to apply the lessons learned. Only a proactive response can prevent health systems from being further overburdened and collapsing,” she said.
One way to address the issue is to deal with the staffing situation. Some countries have a severe shortage of psychiatric care providers, particularly Spain, Bulgaria, and Poland, which had only 10.93, 10.31, and 9.23 psychiatrists per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018, respectively.