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Mental healthcare and palliative care: barriers


Context Psychological symptoms are common among palliative care patients with advanced illness, and their effect on quality of life can be as significant as physical illness. The demand to address these issues in palliative care is evident, yet barriers exist to adequately meet patients’ psychological needs.

Objectives This article provides an overview of mental health issues encountered in palliative care, highlights the ways psychologists and psychiatrists care for these issues, describes current approaches to mental health services in palliative care, and reviews barriers and facilitators to psychology and psychiatry services in palliative care, along with recommendations to overcome barriers.

Results Patients in palliative care can present with specific mental health concerns that may exceed palliative care teams’ available resources. Palliative care teams in the USA typically do not include psychologists or psychiatrists, but in palliative care teams where psychologists and psychiatrists are core members of the treatment team, patient well-being is improved.

Conclusion Psychologists and psychiatrists can help meet the complex mental health needs of palliative care patients, reduce demands on treatment teams to meet these needs and are interested in doing so; however, barriers to providing this care exist. The focus on integrated care teams, changing attitudes about mental health, and increasing interest and training opportunities for psychologists and psychiatrists to be involved in palliative care, may help facilitate the integration of psychology and psychiatry into palliative care teams.

  • mental health integration
  • hospice and palliative care
  • mental healthcare policy

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