Global Psychiatrists Unite to Improve Services in Mental Health

    INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - 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
    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

    About EUFAMI

    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

    (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.

For further information:

For further information: Department Psychiatry and Psychotherapy,
Biological Psychiatry Division, Head: W. Wolfgang Fleischhacker, M.D.,
Professor of Psychiatry, A-6020 Innsbruck, Anichstrasse 35, Phone :
+43-512-504-23669, Fax: +43-512-504-25267, e-mail:, e-mail: (office); Media
Contact: Celia Hall, FD, Santé: +44-20-3077-0497

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