Coping With Crisis
One in every five Russians needs psychological assistance, but a lack of psychologists and the stigma of being labeled mentally disturbed have prevented many from seeking help, according to mental health professionals. "Years of drastic social and economic change and a jump in extremism in Russian society have seriously affected the mental health of the Russian people," Vasily Yastrebov of the Health Ministry's Scientific Center of Mental Health said in a telephone interview. His center's estimates show that 20 percent of the population needs occasional counseling, but only a fraction are finding a sympathetic ear--usually in medical institutions.
"In Russia, psychiatry was traditionally separated from other medical and rehabilitation services," said Valery Krasnov, head of the Psychiatric Scientific Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Science. In Soviet times, human rights activists often accused psychiatrists of being the Communist Party's obedient tool to punish dissent. The reluctance of Russians to seek psychological help is a legacy of that era, when a person labeled mentally disturbed could see his career ruined and end up a social outcast. The suicide rate has more than doubled over the past few decades to become one of the top in the world, soaring from 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1965 to 43 per 100,000 in the late 1990s, while the number of drug addicts has skyrocketed by 1,100 percent over the past ten years. There are about 300,000 registered drug addicts, but experts believe the actual number is about ten times larger.
Edited excerpt from "Experts: 1 in 5 Needs Counseling," The Moscow Times, 17 December 2002.
Nabi Abdullaev is a staff writer for The Moscow Times.
Nabi Abdullaev, "Coping With Crisis," East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Summer 2003), 3.
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