Figures suggest increased numbers of Czechs seeking psychiatric help

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Newly released government figures suggest that more and more Czechs are seeking psychiatric help. But does this mean that an increasing number of Czechs are having mental health problems or do the numbers merely demonstrate that more Czechs are overcoming the stigma attached to mental health?

Ivan David
According to newly released figures from the Czech Institute of Health Statistics, in 2006 around a third more Czechs sought psychiatric help than in 2000. In a country in which mental health issues were either neglected or misused by the former communist regime, the figures could be said to demonstrate that fewer and fewer Czechs are restrained by the apparent stigma of seeking psychiatric help. So just what is the state of mental health care in the Czech Republic? I asked Ivan David, director of the Prague Bohnice Psychiatric Facility to explain:

“These numbers reflect so-called declared diagnoses, which means people that have gone out and sought help. This means that the numbers factor in the availability of help, a greater interest in finding it and also fewer obstacles towards getting the actual help that is required.”

But Ivan David remains pessimistic about the overall quality of available care:

“If we look at day care, that has worsened because it has been privatized, and those doctors, are, shall we say, economically optimizing their care and avoiding so-called extra costs. This means that social care is falling by the wayside, in favour of simply administering drugs. As far as intensive care goes, that hasn’t improved much because the greatest problem still remains a poor standard of accommodation – it may have improved in the last 19 years, but not nearly enough for us to be happy with it. We still have more patients than we have beds.”

The newly released figures, quoted in Tuesday’s Lidové noviny, indicate that in 2006, 17,500 Czechs were hospitalized due to mental health issues, while a total of 458,000 sought help. However, while treatments for neuroses, depression and other similar ailments are on the rise, particularly among women, the figures also suggest that the numbers of those seeking treatment for alcoholism and drug dependency remain stagnant. Ivan David again:

“Women have always traditionally been far more inclined to seek help for neurotic issues. Meanwhile, men tend to have far more problems related to dependency on alcohol and other substances - even though women are rapidly catching up in this field. Because society is particularly tolerant in this country towards the consumption of alcohol, other substances as well as gambling, we have a far higher addiction rate in this area than is normal or is found in other countries.”