If we need to take care of our mental health every day, World Mental Health Day, held every October 10, is an opportunity to bring this essential component of our lives back into focus. The events of the Covid-19 pandemic have also had a heavy impact on our mental health. It is essential to talk about it!
Mental health is an essential component of our health, defined by the WHO as “a state of well-being in which a person can achieve personal fulfillment, cope with the normal stresses of life, do productive work, and contribute to his or her community. In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for an individual’s well-being and for the proper functioning of a community.
This definition covers many aspects, from the development of the individual to the protection of his or her psychological balance. Mental health therefore goes far beyond the pathological dimension, but since more than one adult in four is or will be affected by a psychiatric disorder during his or her lifetime, it is important to shed light on what these conditions are and their impact on the lives of the people they affect.
Psychiatric disorders represent a major public health issue today. Although their therapeutic management has progressed considerably thanks to research, societal prejudices persist. These distorted views of reality, fueled by media coverage of violent but “rare” events (less than 1% of patients being potentially dangerous to others), still lead to discrimination and a significant delay in the diagnosis of patients. The association between psychiatry and madness is unfortunately still widespread in society’s beliefs. Nowadays, psychiatric disorders benefit from appropriate care and effective treatments that allow patients to continue their social, family and professional life.
Innovative targeted and personalized therapies
The treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders is multidisciplinary and must combine psychotherapy, drug treatments, and new therapeutic technologies. Clinicians and researchers at the Paris Brain Institute, in close collaboration with the adult psychiatry department of the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital (AP-HP), have as their main objective to develop the use of existing and effective technologies in more pathologies, but also to allow therapies to be adapted to each patient.
New ways to treat psychiatric disorders
These “new generation” therapies are generally associated with psychotherapy and drug treatments specific to each psychiatric disorder.
The objective of this therapy is to allow the patient to gradually tame anxiety-provoking situations and to desensitize himself. Equipped with a 3D headset projecting a scene that usually provokes his disorder, the patient can progress without risk since he knows that he is only facing virtual dangers.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation consists of using a magnetic field to modify the electrical activity in the cerebral cortex. This technology has shown its effectiveness in cases of severe depressive syndromes, but also in cases of auditory hallucinations in schizophrenic patients. It is currently being evaluated for OCD and addictions.
Deep brain stimulation
In cases of severe depression or OCD, resistant to other therapies, deep brain stimulation is indicated. These stimulations are performed with electrodes implanted in specific regions of the brain. They deliver permanent electrical stimulation to the neurons in very specific areas of the brain. Researchers at the Paris Brain Institute are pioneers in the use of deep brain stimulation in many neurological and psychiatric pathologies, such as Parkinson’s disease or Tourette’s syndrome, for example.
The development of “connected” devices allowing access to clinical information in real time in the patient’s natural environment is beginning to change the way psychiatric disorders are managed. In the case of suicidal tendencies, for example, variables such as appetite and sleep appear to be very informative for the clinician in predicting and preventing a possible act.
The Covid-19 pandemic: a heavy impact on our mental health
The Covid-19 pandemic, the successive confinements and the multiple changes of sanitary rules, more globally the uncertainty that this crisis has generated in our lives, have had a heavy impact on our psychic well-being and repercussions on our mental health. Cases of anxiety and depression have increased in the last year and a half in the general population. Psychiatrists have identified several reasons for these disorders: anxiety about being contaminated, about contaminating one’s loved ones, uncertainty about the future, and the many constraints in daily life imposed by the health situation.