According to WHO and a report by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, schizophrenia affects 1 in 300 people worldwide and, in 2019, 1 in every 8 people were living with a mental disorder, anxiety and depressive disorders. In 2020, that figure spiked by 26% due to the Covid pandemic. WHO stated, “While effective prevention and treatment options exist, most people with mental disorders do not have access to effective care. Many people also experience stigma, discrimination and violations of human rights.”
Monaco’s Department of Health Affairs is taking mental health seriously and in March launched a plan of 53 initiatives spread over five years, from 2022 to 2027, to improve the monitoring and available care in terms of well-being and psychological balance.
“We are not embarrassed to go see a doctor when we have a health problem. But we are embarrassed to go see a psychiatric or psychological professional, even though it can be useful to us,” said former minister of health Didier Gamerdinger (He was named Monaco’s ambassador to Tokyo in August.)
People with severe and persistent mental disorders – those who are schizophrenic, bipolar, suffer severe depression, personality disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder – struggle with isolation, difficulty in keeping their job, a place to live and in maintaining social and family ties.
Monegasque Karine Latore wrote La force de vaincre (The Strength to Overcome; Editions LC, 2019) detailing her 20-year battle with schizophrenia, beginning with her first experience of depression at age 16 and how she lives in and out of hospitalisations while fighting psychological demons in her daily life. One euro from each book purchase is donated to the association D’Amore Psy Monaco – an association for the regrouping of families and friends of people with mental illness and mental health users – and to GEMM, the Monegasque Mutual Support Group.
Karine’s mother, Béatrice, is president of D’Amore Psy Monaco, an association under the Honorary Presidency of Prince Albert, created in June 2008 to provide help, support and information to families affected by psychiatric disorders.
Béatrice says the non-profit acts as “the essential intermediary with government authorities and the medical profession in order to meet the needs and expectations of families and patients.” D’Amore Psy works with the Psychiatry Department of the Princess Grace Hospital Centre and at UPPM – the Roseraie Unit of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology (7 bis ave des Ligures).
Alongside D’Amore Psy, there is GEMM. Founded in 2016, GEMM is for Monegasque nationals and residents who suffer from isolation as a result of psychological and social difficulties and justify psychiatric monitoring in the Principality. Located at 3 ave Pasteur (+377 93 25 12 50), the day-time centre offers members the opportunity of reweaving social ties through cultural and leisure activities, which are chosen and led by fellow members in a spirit of mutual understanding.
“The psychiatry department at CHPG and UPPM in Monaco takes care of patients medically, At GEMM, we take charge of fun activities,” says Béatrice.
D’Amore Psy is a partner of UNAFAM France (National Union of Families and Friends of Sick and/or Psychically Disabled Persons), which is running its 2022 Mental Health Awareness Weeks (Semaines d’information sur la santé mentale) from October 10 to 23 with the theme “Mental health and the environment”. There are several events being organised across the Alpes-Maritimes.
In Monaco, a performance of Un nénuphar dans ma baignoire (A water lily in my bathtub) will be performed at the Théâtre des Variétés on Thursday, October 13 at 8 pm. It is the story of Dr Constantin Pirdas, an ordinary man with a secret: he is bipolar. His artist daughter immerses the audience in the marvellous and dark world of this strange madness. A round table discussion led by mental health workers in Monaco will follow the play. Ticket sales (€20 or for members, €15) will support D’Amore Psy and can be reserved: email@example.com or call 06 37 58 25 13.
You can also support D’Amore Psy and their bid to have a larger GEMM facility by buying a memberships (€50/year) or making an online donation.
For Béatrice, D’Amore Psy’s mission in Monaco is ongoing : “Demystifying mental illness, providing ongoing care for patients and support for families.”
A reminder that during Mental Health Awareness Weeks, Gavin Sharpe of Riviera Wellbeing in Monaco is offering a taste of The Good Life on October 15. “Mental health is not a topic historically associated with Monaco. I hope we can move the dial.”