Talking about mental health problems often leads to the concept of “mentally ill” or “mental illness”. It is worth pointing out at the beginning of this article that at present such formulations are being abandoned. In the classification of diseases and health problems, the term mental disorder is used. Mental disorder is defined as a set of symptoms and behaviors usually associated with suffering and leading to disorders of individual functioning.
People with mental disorders experience problems with thinking, emotions, perception, memory and motivation. Our knowledge about the origin of mental disorders is still limited – it is believed that genetic factors, as well as later life experiences, traumatic experiences, emotional crises, the use of psychoactive substances, past illnesses, injuries and infections may influence the appearance of symptoms.
Contrary to appearances, mental disorders are one of the most common health problems, although not always people suffering from them use medical help. The results of one epidemiological study conducted in 2000 in 9 European countries show that about 50% of people experience symptoms of mental disorders at least once in their lifetime (including problems of varying severity and duration), and if will assess the last 12 months of life, this percentage is approx. 20%. Most of the disorders begin in young people – between the teens and 25 years of age.
It is common for several mental disorders to occur in one person. Most of the surveyed people did not receive appropriate medical or psychological help in the year preceding the survey. A similar epidemiological study is currently conducted in Poland – randomly selected persons are to interview appropriately trained personnel. The survey will answer, inter alia, to the questions about the prevalence of mental disorders in Poland, what percentage of patients are receiving health care and what is the access to medical assistance.
Statistical studies conducted in Polish health centers indicate that in the years 1990-2005 the prevalence of mental disorders increased significantly. This phenomenon could be related to systemic changes and the need to adapt to new conditions. In recent years, the number of available centers for the diagnosis and therapy of mental disorders has also increased – mental health clinics, community care teams, psychiatric day wards.
The number of psychiatric places in multidisciplinary hospitals has also increased, while there are fewer places in large psychiatric hospitals. Richer and more comprehensive health care for patients not staying in psychiatric hospitals is provided for by the National Mental Health Program, one of the goals of which is to popularize the so-called environmental model of psychiatric health care.