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Global Psychiatrists Unite to Improve Services in Mental Health
Date:9/19/2008

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."

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SOURCE Medizinische Universität Innsbruck Dept. Psychiatry and
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