The role of the Mobile Mental Health Units in mental healthcare delivery in rural areas in Greece: current challenges and prospects

Psychiatriki. 2022 Dec 7;33(4):301-309. doi: 10.22365/jpsych.2022.084. Epub 2022 May 26.


The present paper aims to highlight the importance of Mobile Mental Health Units (MMHUs) in the delivery of mental health services in remote areas in rural Greece. Since the foundation of the first MMHUs in the eighties till nowadays, those services have expanded in many rural areas and there is some evidence that they are effective in the management of patients with severe mental disorders. The care of those patients seems to contribute to a significant reduction in voluntary and involuntary acute admissions and in length of hospital stay. Cost/effectiveness analysis studies have also shown favorable results. Besides their regular clinical work, MMHUs conduct research, such as epidemiologic surveys. Other research explores the care of elderly patients in rural areas and the care of immigrants that permanently reside in Greece. Other research involves the study of psychotic disorders in the rural context, such as the long-term outcome, the patients' functioning, and the long-term treatment with benzodiazepines. Current challenges for MMHUs involve staffing, particularly for those run by public hospitals, and the retainment of highly trained personnel. Other important challenges are related to the aging of the rural population and the refugee/migrant influx. The MMHUs of the islands that initially accept the refugee flow, have already faced an increased number of new referrals. Given the disparities in mental healthcare between rural and urban areas, further enhancement of the MMHUs' operation is required, as well as continuing training of their workforce. Research at the national level is needed and could be the basis for the design and staffing of new services. The establishment of valid and broadly accepted clinical indices to measure treatment outcomes would facilitate research and ensure the recording and evaluation of the MMHUs' work and their effectiveness as well; and would highlight their utility within the contemporary health system.

Keywords: Community mental health services; mobile mental health units; psychotic disorders; rural and remote areas; schizophrenia.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Mobile Health Units
  • Psychotic Disorders* / therapy