The number of reported mental health issues are on the rise in Albania but there are not a sufficient number of doctors to treat them.
In fact, Albania ranks last in the whole of Europe in terms of the number of doctors specialising in psychiatry – one doctor per 100 thousand people. There are a total of 635 beds available for those requiring mental health treatment yet only one doctor per 26 patients.
According to an INSTAT survey, 60-70% of all Albanian adults suffered from depression at some point, yet there are only 25 doctors nationwide that are specialised in the area. It also seems that Albania has an unusually high prevalence of depression as the World Health Organisation states that around 4.4 percent of the global population have, do, or will suffer from the condition.
From the data provided by INSTAT, it is not clear whether the number of patients is increasing due to an increase in actual cases, or whether it is due to more people coming forward to seek help.
As per the rate of doctors to the number of inhabitants, Albania (1 doctor per 100 thousand people) is beaten by Turkey (5 doctors), Bulgaria (9), North Macedonia (9), Montenegro (11), Serbia (13), etc. Those with the best ratio of mental health specialists per citizen include high welfare countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Iceland. Nordic countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden also rank highly based on Eurostat rankings.
Depression is a mood disorder that is characterised by lethargy, sadness, loss of interest and motivation, feelings of despair, issues with appetite/sleep/libido, and a whole range of other emotional and physical problems. It can be genetic, or caused by life circumstances and can be temporary or permanent. It is not known definitively what causes it, but if left untreated it can escalate and result in suicide attempts and death.
It is usually treated with prescription medicines such as SSRIs whilst encouraging the individual to eat healthily, exercise, and attend therapy. In Albania however, drugs such as Xanax and Loram are often prescribed for depression, despite them not being advisable for long or short term treatment for the condition.
Imports of Loram and Xanax have increased significantly over the last three years, suggesting a big spike in demand, according to a Monitor report. In 2016 only, imports of both medicines increased by 18 percent and 11 percent compared to the previous year.
Despite being tightly controlled drugs in Europe and America and requiring a standard prescription in Albania, Xanax is widely available over the counter.