Mental illness is another dark aspect of the Greek financial crisis which typically goes unseen, but the drastic changes in Greeks’ daily lives over the last years have had serious consequences on the state of the country’s mental health.
Psychiatric hospitals all around Greece are filled with patients whose mental condition is occasionally shocking. Dafni, Attica’s Psychiatric Hospital, admits approximately 200 new patients every month. The number of patients surpasses the hospital’s capacity by 30%. Patients are loitering in the corridors and sleeping on cots.
Furthermore, the number of involuntary commitments has risen dramatically since 2010. At the moment, almost 55% of patients are admitted to the hospital involuntarily, either by police intervention or by a prosecutor’s order. Doctors have connected the dramatic increase to the financial crisis.
Patients who are admitted in these institutions are mostly the unemployed, bankrupt businessmen or parents who have no means of taking care of or feeding their children. Most are over 40-years-old and have never showed previous signs of mental illness.
Moreover, hundreds of homeless people also end up in psychiatric hospitals with severe mental illnesses. They usually stay in the hospital for a short period of time and then return to the streets without any medical care.
Scientific studies in Europe and the US have found a convincing connection between homelessness with mental illness.
Last month, a 44-year-old homeless man who suffered from depression committed suicide in central Athens. One day before the incident he was admitted in Dromokaiteio Hospital, where doctors saw no need to hospitalize him. He was shortly discharged.
According to local media, doctors are usually prompted by hospitals to discharge patients due to the fact that their institutions are consistently full.
During the first nine months of 2014, 3,412 patients were examined in Dafni and just 1,757 admitted.
“Unfortunately we don’t have the necessary structures to support these people at this time and the pensions of patients’ relatives have been significantly reduced,” notes Theodoros Megalooikonomou, director of Dafni Psychiatric Hospital.