Psychologist and mental health: where are we?

Psychologist and mental health: where are we?

Never before in this period has we heard about the importance of mental health and invoked in the presence of the psychologist in the various strategic points of our society.


Surely this period we are experiencing could (and can) become a stimulus to really do something more, to have a better impact on promoting a culture of mental and psychophysical well-being at 360 degrees.

But what is meant by mental health? According to the WHO it is’ a state of emotional and psychological well-being in which the individual is able to realize their needs starting from their cognitive and emotional abilities, exercise their function in society and in community life by building and maintaining good relationships, coping with the needs of daily life, overcoming tensions and managing and expressing their emotions and their ability to change to achieve a satisfactory quality of life, make their own choices and express their creativity by working productively ‘(Ministry of Health, 2020).

In reality it is not Covid-19 that has brought out this need, because we have been talking about it for years and there is an awareness on the part of Italian, European and world bodies and bodies that wish for progress in bringing new proposals and new practices to promote and foster mental health in populations. Obviously today, in the period we are experiencing, this need appears even more pressing and, fortunately, it is beginning to be given more importance. Because, of course, it implies a sort of ‘cultural revolution’ with respect to how the figure of the Psychologist is seen and how mental health is conceived and this requires time and commitment, but it also implies the will on the part of institutions and politics to invest in mental health in terms of both the treatment and prevention of mental illness and the promotion of the resources necessary to protect this health. In the action plan for the ‘Relaunch Italy’ (2020), it is underlined how our country, up to now, is among those that invest less in mental health.

The reason of such importance for mental health is increasingly visible to all, since its lack has deleterious consequences for the individual but also for the community and the stability of countries. Already in 2013, the European Action Plan for Mental Health (a plan that arises from the collaboration between Member States and the WHO for Europe and which proposes effective objectives and actions to improve mental health and well-being ) reported that:

This means that the well-being of the population should be a central issue for governments in order to implement policies aimed at improving mental well-being and reducing exposure to risk factors. Indeed, in a period characterized, in our country, by economic difficulties, unemployment, job uncertainty and demographic aging, to which is added a health crisis that is still ongoing, it is essential to focus on how to maintain and maximize well-being. in all stages of life.

This seems to have been understood by the proponents of the so-called Relaunch Italy; far from giving an assessment of the actual validity and effectiveness of the plan to relaunch the country or not following the Covid-19 emergency in which we still are, what emerges from a first reading of the work sheets is inclusion (and clearly still to be finalized and implemented) of a whole series of proposals that actually touch the main areas from which it is possible to restart, to strengthen and to support in order to ensure that the living conditions of the population improve (an important prerequisite for maintaining a good mental health). In particular, proposals and actions are included that should affect the well-being of the individual and communities in terms of welfare, work, inclusion of disability, fight against violence and gender inequalities, reconciliation of life times (work and private) as support for parenting and above all psychological support and strengthening of social and health services. With respect to the latter two areas, the first guidelines are defined for accessing psychological support through packages of interviews to families and individuals who have been directly impacted by Covid-19, with the aim of preventing and reducing depressive syndromes and the related costs. social and health care, and the strengthening of the Social Health Services and Individualized Therapeutic-Rehabilitation Projects is proposed to support and promote the inclusion and active participation in their life path of the most fragile people and made even more vulnerable by the Covid-19 emergency , For example,

It is interesting to note how these proposed actions are effectively in line with European and world policies on mental health and how the role of Psychology also enters by right into the collective imagination of the ‘restructuring’ of our model of society, starting from a awareness of the delays and limitations that exist in our country but also of the existing potential and of what is possible to do, at every level.

And in this regard, to mention another important step with respect to the role that Psychology is taking, the project approved in the Puglia region cannot fail to be mentioned, that is the basic psychologist who collaborates with the family doctor; a proposal that arises from the observation that ‘despite the considerable increase in the offer of psychological assistance recorded in recent decades in our country, half of the people who experience a state of discomfort still do not turn to the psychologist. However, it is noted that 35% of the interventions requested from the family doctor are driven precisely by psychological factors’ (Order Psychologists Puglia).

In the past, some isolated pilot projects had already been advanced which had shown the usefulness and effectiveness of the collaboration between physician and psychologist but which had not become systematic and widespread as has happened in other countries; this experience demonstrated the need for a mental health specialist to be present in the doctor’s office, for the promotion of psychological well-being and for taking care of the patients’ emotional distress in order to make the intervention more effective and above all timely. In fact, one of the problems related to the need for the promotion (and prevention) of mental health is the chronicization of discomfort and suffering before they reach the professional consultation, with the consequent loss of productivity for the person and an excessive economic burden that often weighs on the individual or the family as the local services are not always able to take care of all requests quickly (another problem related to mental health). Usually, in fact, the person, in an attempt to solve the problem, passes from wanting to do it alone or turn to reference figures, to then move on to a non-specialist plan, such as religious figures or social volunteering, and only at the end to a professional of the sector. If, on the other hand, the people who work in the area (for example general practitioners) were adequately trained and could collaborate with mental health professionals,

Therefore, these considerations open to a warm welcome towards the project that will be carried out by colleagues in Puglia, with the hope that it will become a common and widespread practice throughout the country. In fact, the premises seem to go towards the right path, small openings that with this health emergency require even more to be taken into consideration; obviously there is still a lot to do, and one of the examples is bringing the Psychologist even in schools, being an area that hardly manages to ‘find peace’ in our country, very damaged over the years and constantly changing given the complexity of emergency in which we are (the psychologist at school alone deserves an entire article).

What is hoped is that, in the meantime, everything that has been designed to favor and positively affect people’s well-being can be implemented and continue to ‘keep in mind’ that without mental health everything else becomes more difficult.