Mental health: Survey reveals a mad and sad Europe

7 September 2011 – Presseurop Presseurop

A new survey reports that almost 40% of the population of Europe suffers from a mental disorder each year, writes the Irish Examiner. Along with depression, the survey by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology includes in its ambit of mental disorders neural diseases like dementia and Parkinson's. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, as well as panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and shyness, also form part of an impressive array of symptoms displayed by 165 million Europeans. “And with only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden — estimated at hundreds of billions of euro,” the Cork daily writes.

The Daily Telegraph singles out the fact that women are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than men to suffer from depression, “with most cases occurring during the "reproductive years" between the ages of 16 and 42.” According to the report, “The burden of trying to look after children, take responsibility for the family and hold down a job has seen rates of depression in women double since the 1970s.” While depression (30.3m overall) and anxiety (69.1m overall) seem to be disproportionately female ailments, men are more likely to become alcoholics (14.6m overall), particularly in eastern Europe.

For writer and novelist Lisa Appignanesi in the Guardian, such “worrying” reports “may draw attention to a rising toll of human suffering, but they pinpoint the imperialising tendency of the mental health sector.” Striking a sceptical note, she writes that the psychiatric professions have “spawned more and more diagnostic categories "inventing" disorders along the way and radically reducing the range of what can be construed as normal or sane. Meanwhile Big Pharma, feeding its appetite for profits and ours for drugs, has gained an ever greater hold over our mental and emotional lives, medicalising normality.”

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