The specialty of Psychiatry and the interdisciplinary work performed by psychiatrists in conjunction with other scientific and humanistic disciplines is being affected by some factswhich ead to its stigmatization. There are both internal and external risks that are affecting the profession. Among the internal ones we may mention the differents diagnostic criteriaused by psychiatrists and the differences between treatments – as there is a wide variety of treatment options. Besides, the practice of psychiatry may differ enormously, according to the perspective –biological, psychological, social, cultural, and so on– of each psychiatrist. The internal inconsistencies give rise to some of the external risks psychiatry and psychiatrists have to face: patients’ discontent or even mistrust, the intrusion of other professions in the field of psychiatry and the negative image psychiatry has among the public. Just as it occurred in many other places before, the passing of a new mental health law in Argentina has proved to be an occasion for deep debate. The passing of this law has caused big controversy, especially among professional associations, private mental health services, NGOs which represent users and their families, trade unions which represent health workers, political and economic decision makers, etc. In Argentina, the debate of ideas has always been rich. Even when political parties were forbidden, there were discussions taking place among groups which supported psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches. There are many who demonize the developments made in the field of psychiatry and they also campaign against such developments. They catch the public’s attention and they convince legislators, thus spreading the idea that psychiatry may be dangerous. As a consequence, for example, the new law gives similar status to psychiatrists and psychologists when it states that the decision to confine a patient into hospital "should be signed by two professionals, one of whom should be either a psychologist or a psychiatrist". We all know that psychologists play a very important role in mental health care, but the medical training of psychiatrists will surely enable them to make very complexmedical decisions such as the decision to confine a patient into hospital. Some other aspects to be mentioned about this law are that no reference is made to outpatient services, although they are of utmost importance in everyday practice, and that there is a bureaucratization of hospitalization. Such decision is no longer made by a professional, as a means to achieve the best treatment possible, but by a judge, who is expected to know what is best for the patient. However, there are basic contents in this law which are definitely positive: it defends patients’ rights; it promotes interdisciplinary team work; it recommends deinstitutionalization, community services and, if necessary, inpatient services in general hospitals. However, there are many doubts as regards the way this will be put into practice. In most countries psychiatry is also threatened by a shortage of psychiatrists. In Argentina, the number of medical students who choose this branch of medicine as their specialty has declined the past twenty years, while the number of prospective psychologists has soared in the meantime. These are some of the reasons why many believe that psychiatry is being discredited. In this scenario, where there are both internal and external risks for psychiatry, our main professional interest is basedon improving our patients’ quality of life, which obviously includes their mental health. In order to achieve the best results we should avoid militant attitudes and the ideologization of reality, and be as creative as possiblelooking for the best way to do so.
Key words: mental health, stigma, advances, perspectives
R. Montenegro (page 283) - Full article