Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ever More Russians have Mental Disorders But Fewer Psychiatrists Exist to Help Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 19 – In an article on the Regnum portal today entitled “Why is Psychiatry Being Destroyed?” Irina Medvedeva and Tatyana Shishkova are that “Russian society is suffering from an epidemic of psychological disorders but that ever more often there is no one would have help them” (

            The two educators say on the basis of their professional experience that both the reason for this situation and the basis for its solution are to be found in the complicated relationship between psychiatry, on the one hand, and politics, on the other, a relationship that is seldom considered in detail.

            “Many will say,” they note, “that in certain political systems, psychiatry is used for the suppression of dissent,” with those who object to the regime’s policies confined to “mad houses.”  That is “a correct answer,” Medvedeva and Shishkova say, but it is not a complete one.  There is in fact “something much more important but not so evident” involved.

            Since the start of perestroika, they say, educational professionals have noted and complained about what they see as “the destruction of psychiatry … just as is the case in many other areas under the guide of reform, the striving to correspond to new approaches and international standards, to improve, to perfect and so on.”

            And while psychiatry in Russia has been and continues to be in trouble, they say, the psychological health of the Russian people has declined, with a rising number of people suffering from complaints like schizophrenia which many assume are things that remain at a fixed level.

            “There is nothing surprising in this worsening of psychological health” among Russians, the two educators suggest.  “It couldn’t be otherwise under conditions of such information-cultural aggression” from the West “and the loosening of morals.”

            Between 2004 and 2014, the last year for which complete statistics are available, the number of Russians who have been classified as invalids because of mental problems rose by 5.2 percent to a total of 1,055,950 – almost one out of every one in the country’s population. But there are fewer than one psychiatrist or psychotherapist for every 10,000 Russians.

            Between 2005 and 2014, the number of psycho-neurological dispensaries fell from 173 to 98, both pathetically low numbers for a country as large demographically and geographically as the Russian Federation.  And over the same period, the number of psychiatric hospitals fell from 270 to 210, with the total number of beds in such institutions falling by 14.1 percent.

            The situation among pre-schools both in terms of the share with mental problems and of the number of professionals available to help them is even worse.  And now one in every five young men excused from military service gains that exemption because of psychological problems, Medvedeva and Shishkova say.

            In seeking to save money, the government has seriously underestimated the importance of the work of psychiatrists. It has allowed psychologists who cannot do as much to flood the market and failed to train and retain psychiatrists who in contrast can actually help many that psychology alone cannot. “Even the best psychologist can’t substitute for a psychiatrist.”

            But if the problems in the branch reflect politics, so too does the obvious solution, the two educators continue. (In fact, they devote most of their long article to this.)  They suggest that the best way to cure more Russians is to promote traditional Orthodox values against the onslaught of Western ones.  Even if that is successful, however, Russia needs more psychiatrists.

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