October 10: World Mental Health Day

Interview with Prof. Piccinni, Professor at UniCamillus

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, nearly one billion people in the world live with a mental disorder.
The goal of this year’s event is to raise awareness among institutions and the population all over the world on the importance of investing in this important health sector.

In fact, the theme is “Mental Health for All, more investments – better access. For Everyone, Everywhere” to emphasize, therefore, the effectiveness of health policies and activities aimed at promoting better mental health worldwide.

Armando Piccinni, Professor of Clinical Psychology in Dentistry and Dental Prosthetics Degree and Professor of General Psychology in Nursing Degree of UniCamillus. He teaches also Clinical Psychology: Therapeutic Relationship and Posturology in the University On-line Master in Clinical Posturology. In this interview, the Professor explains that the living conditions of people with mental illness do not depend only on the severity of the disease, but also on the degree of general acceptance coming from the surrounding world and that, unfortunately, the current numbers regarding patients with certain pathologies are destined to change radically due to the Coronavirus.

Why is the World Mental Health Day important?
Treatment of mental disorder was the Cinderella of medicine until a few decades ago. The development of psychopharmacology and tools for investigating the nervous system and, again, the development of new treatment methods have led to an enormous development of knowledge and treatment of mental disorders. Despite this and despite the recognized importance of the role that the brain and its functions plays through behavior, the focus on psychiatric disorders always remains low. Celebrating a World Mental Health Day is important because it must draw attention to diseases that constantly affect society, the working world, family life, civil coexistence. More financial and legislative instruments are certainly needed to increase the use of funds for the benefit of these disorders.

Do you think there is a greater acceptance and awareness of mental illness than in the past?
Over the years, greater knowledge and better treatment capacity has brought psychiatric disorders much closer to all medical diseases which are ordinarily diagnosed and treated. The effective treatment of extremely common dirorders such as depression and anxiety made them lose the aura of mystery that hung around them. The current reduction in stigma is linked precisely to this and so, in the Western world, frequenting a psychologist or visiting a psychiatrist is no longer equivalent to the label of insane. We must continue on this path: an ever greater knowledge and improvement of treatments will in the near future accept mind diseases as disorders equal to others.

How much and how has the Coronavirus affected mental health?
The pandemic has led to a state of alarm that has led already vulnerable people to the onset of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, or mood, particularly depression or rekindling of cyclicality in bipolar disorders. Many patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders in the compensation phase have resumed being terrified of the infection and have started again with their cleaning / washing / disinfection rituals. A resumption of symptoms, again, was also seen in hypochondriac patients. Finally, a major increase in relapses is being observed in drug addictions or behavioral addictions. One last aspect cannot be overlooked: although studies on numerically important populations of subjects who have reported Covid-19 infections are not available at the moment, some authoritative research has focused their attention on the brain revealing a sometimes profound involvement, with consequences on sensory organs. The possible permanent outcomes on cognitive systems are not yet quantifiable, but it is certainly a research front that deserves further study.