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Global Psychiatrists Unite to Improve Services in Mental Health

INNSBRUCK, Austria, September 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirty seven medical experts in psychiatry from across the world have called on the medical community to take urgent action to optimize services for people with a diagnosis of severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder(i).

Professor W. Wolfgang Fleischhacker, principal author of Comorbid Somatic Illnesses in Patients with Severe Mental Disorders: Clinical, Policy, and Research Challenges which was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, together with leading physicians, confirmed that compared to the general public there were serious inequalities in the physical health of patients with severe mental illness and a shorter life expectancy, due primarily to cardiovascular disease.

Professor Fleischhacker said: "The prevalence of important risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes and obesity, is about 1.5 to 3.5 times higher in adults with schizophrenia than in the general population."

One of the key problems which contributed to neglecting the physical health of these patients, and identified by Professor Fleischhacker and colleagues in their paper, included stigmatization of mental illness. This led to widespread discrimination, including insufficient health care provision; suboptimal integration of general health and psychiatric care services and a lack of consensus as to which health care professional should be responsible for the prevention management of physical ill health.

Sigrid Steffen, President of the European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness (EUFAMI) said: "For the past number of years, families have become aware of the situation and are very concerned about these additional health dangers. We believe that they have a very serious impact on our loved ones. The release of this article is a welcome development as it means that the issues are finally being treated as important."

The paper sets out a five-step plan to address these inequalities. The focus is on: taking responsibility for the patient - by the primary responsible treating physician; education and training - to increase general medical education in psychiatric training and increase psychiatric education in general medical training; access to services - by implementing measures such as improving access to general physical healthcare, appropriate insurance coverage and general physical healthcare within psychiatric institutions and systems of mental health care; collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines - to develop comprehensive educations efforts aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of mental health care providers; and more research into comorbidities seen in severe mental disorders.

The article is based on presentations and discussions during two international meetings in 2006 that were funded by an independent educational grant from Pfizer Inc., New York, N.Y.


List of Authors

Dr Wolfgang Fleischhacker, Medical University Innsbruck, Austria

Dr Marcelo Cetkovich-Bakmas, the Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO), and the Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Neurosciences, Favaloro Foundation, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Dr Marc De Hert, University Psychiatric Center, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium

Dr Charles Hennekens, the Department of Clinical Sciences and Medical Education, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton

Dr Martin Lambert, the Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

Dr Stefan Leucht, the Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Technische Universitat Munchen, Munich, Germany

Dr Mario Maj, The Department of Psychiatry, University of Naples, Italy

Dr Roger McIntyre, Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada

Dr Dieter Naber, the Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany

Dr John Newcomber, the Department of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Medicine and the Center for Clinical Studies, Washinton University School of Medicine, St.Louis, MO

Dr Mark Olfson, the Department of Psychiatry Columbia University, New York (USA)

Dr Urban Osby, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Dr Norman Sartorius, Association for Improvement of Mental Health Programmes, Geneva, Switzerland

Dr Jeffrey Lieberman, the Department of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York


EUFAMI, the European Federation of Associations of Families of People with mental illness, is the representative body for family and carer associations throughout Europe, promoting the interests and wellbeing of people with mental illness and their families and carers. It was founded in 1992 under Belgian law and is a member led federation. EUFAMI has 48 national and regional associations as members from 28 countries. EUFAMI is working with major European organizations, such as the EU and the World Health Organization (WHO) to help improve the quality of life of persons affected by mental illness.


(i) Fleischhacker WW et al. Comorbid Somatic Illness in Patients with Severe Mental Disorders: Clinical, Policy and Research Challenges. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008;69 (4):514-519.

SOURCE Medizinische Universität Innsbruck Dept. Psychiatry and
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