Wolfgang Spiegel is a general practitioner at the Center for Public Health of the Medical University of Vienna. In a recent contribution of the university, the expert emphasizes that education is one of the most important resources for the protection of the general population from psychological and mental disorders.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, mental stress, aggression and existential fears have increased rapidly. On the occasion of the World Mental Health Day on Saturday, October 10, a physician will explain why education is one of the most important factors when it comes to protecting oneself from mental problems and illnesses.
According to Spiegel, education makes it possible, on the one hand, to be able to assess one’s own physical and mental resilience more accurately and, on the other hand, to better deal with mental disorders in one’s own environment. In this way, one protects not only oneself, but also others more effectively from mental stress.
As the general practitioner emphasizes, education enables the correct and critical classification of information. In addition, education often also allows a more realistic assessment of one’s own mental health, which can lead to more meaningful and timely contact with the appropriate health care facilities. According to Spiegel, educated people are more likely to respond to typical signs of mental health problems such as
Protect yourself and others from psychological damage
Mental health problems have a stigma, even though prejudices against mental illness have diminished over the last 25 years. “Patients today are much more willing to address psychological complaints directly to the doctor,” reports Spiegel. Often, however, physical complaints are still put forward as an excuse for general practitioners when it is actually a matter of mental distress.
Such frequently occurring and unspecific complaints are classified under the term “medical unexplained symptoms” or also as “Bodily Stress Disorder” after organic causes and psychiatric illnesses such as affective disorders have been excluded.
Affected persons often expect to receive a remedy for a specific ailment such as sleep disorders, palpitations, sweating or mood swings, which eliminates these complaints. “It is important to explain to those affected that there can be alternating, non-organic complaints that have no disease value in the sense of a classifiable psychiatric disorder or organic disease,” explains Spiegel. Nevertheless, these ailments are seen as “real” from a medical point of view, even if they are often only partially accessible to diagnosis and therapy.
“In addition to the education of patients, which is so essential, the healthcare system also needs to invest in the professional development of the skills of the treating physicians,” the physician emphasizes. By specifically promoting continuing medical education, health policy in the field of common and typical psychiatric disorders could contribute even more to ensuring that important competencies in primary care are secured. (vb)
Protecting mental health through education
Six core competencies are known in general medicine. One of them is the so-called biopsychosocial medicine, which is regarded as a necessary supplement to the hitherto predominant scientifically oriented human medicine. In contrast to the purely scientific approach, where the human being is rather perceived as a complex machine, the biopsychosocial model also takes the mental side of the human being into account. According to Spiegel, this approach must be more strongly integrated into medical practice through further training.
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