Turkey’s economic crisis leads to increase in mental health problems, say experts

Psychiatrists say a worsening economic crisis and unemployment have resulted in an increase in mental health problems among the Turkish population, the Birgün daily reported

In an interview psychiatrist Burhanettin Kaya said studies have indicated that the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders had increased twofold in recent years. 

“As poverty and unemployment become chronic problems in Turkey, we see an exponential increase in depression and anxiety. There is a deep sense of hopelessness among people, which is rooted in uncertainty about their future. This has resulted in pessimism, low self-esteem, lack of energy and low productivity, among other things,” Kaya explained.

He said mental health problems had increased especially among the young and added that each year the number of suicides in Turkey was higher than the previous year. Furthermore, the use of anti-depressants had increased by 75 percent in the last decade. 

Kaya added that despite the increase in mental health problems, the quality of healthcare had deteriorated and that it had become harder for patients to access psychological counselling.

 One of the main reasons for this is because many hospitals no longer have a psychiatric unit and do not offer beds to psychiatry patients. Moreover, many hospitals do not even have psychiatrists or psychological councilors for outpatients, making it difficult for people suffering from mental health problems to access regular counselling.

Kaya said the government’s healthcare policies was the number one reason for the deteriorating care. “The government’s insistence on privatizing healthcare has resulted in a culture of making a profit from patients instead of actually providing them with care,” he said. 

The economic crisis in Turkey has deepened in recent years as the country grapples with soaring inflation, officially announced at 68.5 percent in March. But according to ENAG, a group of independent economists, inflation has risen to 125 percent, with the cost of education, health, transport and food showing the biggest increases.

Increasing poverty has led to an increase in suicides among the most vulnerable of society, such as studentsand former public servants who were dismissed by emergency decrees in a government purge following a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The public servants who were fired were also blacklisted on the country’s social security database, which is accessible by all potential private sector employers, making it impossible to find work in other sectors and leading to financial problems and poverty. 

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