Mental Health and COVID-19: contributing to “the resilience of health professionals”

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Maria João Heitor

The president of the Portuguese Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health (SPPSM), psychiatrist Maria João Heitor, considers that “Mental Health has an irreplaceable role, albeit often ignored”.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the president stresses that Mental Health “has a role that must be addressed at different targets, namely in educating the public and strengthening the personal resilience of health professionals”.

Maria João Heitor, who took office as President of the Portuguese Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health (SPPSM), recalls that “we are in a particularly difficult period of uncertainty, resulting from another threat to public health”.

Speaking to Just News, the president considers this as a threat that “poses physical, personal, social and emotional challenges for healthcare professionals and the general public”.

Maria João Heitor warns that “there are particularly vulnerable populations”, such as people with severe mental illness and mental retardation, who have “difficulties in terms of protection measures in social distancing”. Also the homeless, “mostly with mental illness and substance abuse, such as alcohol and drugs, who will be more unprotected”.

SPPSM Board Members: João Bessa, Luís Madeira, Joaquim Cerejeira, João Marques, João Marques-Teixeira, Ricardo Coentre, Ema Conde, Maria João Heitor and Manuela Abreu

Maria João Heitor succeeds João Marques-Teixeira in the presidency of SPPSM

Maria João Heitor, who is director of the Psychiatry Service at Hospital Beatriz Ângelo, in Loures, and of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health in which it is integrated, succeeds, in the position of President of SPPSM, to her colleague João Marques-Teixeira .

The psychiatrist from Porto, elected for the 2016-2018 triennium, ended up serving another year of term, a fact that resulted from the holding in Portugal, in 2019, of the 19th World Congress of Psychiatry.

João Marques-Teixeira

“I think that, at the moment, we have a recognized, interventionist Society, with scientific and training concerns. And we have a Society that is concerned with our patients and with the training of our psychiatrists”, stated João Marques-Teixeira, in a balance of the last four years in the life of the SPPSM.

Speaking as the president, at the end of the General Assembly held last Saturday, Maria João Heitor was confident that “the Society can continue to count on another excellent, motivated team that will succeed, in a wise and sensible way, to combine the values and tradition of the SPPSM with innovation and progress”.

The president also guarantees: “We will do our best for scientific knowledge, for psychiatrists, for other Mental Health professionals and, above all, for the patients, families and wider communities.”

Ex-presidents of the SPPSM: António Pacheco Palha (2009-2012) and Maria Luísa Figueira (2013-2015); outgoing president : João Marques-Teixeira (2016-2019); president: Maria João Heitor (2020-2022); president-elect: João Bessa (2023-2025)

Continue to invest in postgraduate training

With a three-year term (2020-2022) ahead of her, Maria João Heitor says she intends to make more regular consulting with the SPPSM Advisory Board, which includes former presidents António Pacheco Palha (2009-2012) and Maria Luísa Figueira (2013-2015). According to the statutes of the Society, João Marques-Teixeira, as outgoing president, and João Bessa, as president-elect, form part of a Board that brings together psychiatrists from different regions of the country.

The president of the SPPSM says that she has designed an action plan guided by “seven guidelines”, the first of which is related to intervention with civil society and the political class. “An important aspect concerns the reimbursement of antipsychotics, which the Board and the outgoing president defended and promoted”, she underlines.

Intervention of Maria João Heitor during swearing in of the new Board of the SPPSM.

The continuation of investment in postgraduate training in new editions of courses aimed mainly at Psychiatry interns but also, for example, at General and Family Medicine specialists is another of the priorities of the president, who also intends to invest in the creation of the Mental Health Observatory.

Maria João Heitor

Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon, Maria João Heitor shared her internship in Psychiatry between Miguel Bombarda and hospitals in the United Kingdom. In Portugal, she has worked in several hospital institutions, being at Beatriz Ângelo since it opened (2012).

Among other roles, she was director of Psychiatry and Mental Health Services at the Directorate-General for Health, a member of the National Mental Health Council and Portuguese representative to the WHO and the European Commission. She holds a PhD in Preventive Medicine and Public Health.

Governing Bodies of the SPPSM  Triennium 2020-2022

President: Maria João Heitor
Vice-president: Luís Madeira
President-elect: João Bessa
Outgoing president: João Marques-Teixeira
General secretariat: Ema Conde
Treasurer : Ricardo Coentre
Board Members: João Marques, Joaquim Cerejeira e Manuela Abreu

President: Carlos Ramalheira
Vice-president: Susana Almeida
Secretary: Lurdes Santos

President: Luís Câmara Pestana
Vice-president: Sónia Ramos
Secretary: António Bento

António Pacheco Palha
Maria Luísa Figueira

Ricardo Coentre (treasurer), Ema Conde (general-secretary), Luís Madeira (vice-president) e Maria João Heitor (president)
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