Updated: Jan 4
Even though private medical care (and mental health care) in Greece is relatively affordable in comparison to other western countries like UK and USA, it is still possible that it may be difficult for you to afford private care.
However, it is not the end of the world. You are in Greece. We are well known for our soviet like tendencies, and our generous welfare system.
If you are coming from abroad you need to understand that the Greek medical system still provides a lot of services for free, even though you may be uninsured or you may have trouble with your VISA.
Depending on your condition I would advise the following.
1. Remain flexible and be patient.
You have access to free psychiatric hospital care and free medications. Yes, completely free inpatient care and medications even though you may be uninsured.
Not all public hospitals provide the best living conditions but some are better than others, and if you search around you will find a public psychiatric clinic that may be able to provide hospital care in the event of an emergency.
Most doctors in public hospitals will have some training in English, and are likely to have worked abroad for a while. You will be able to see them even after you are discharged.
You will get all your medications for free from the public hospital, and you may continue to receive free medical care after you are discharged.
If you have a valid social security number (AMKA), then you will be able to get your prescription from the outpatient department of the hospital you were admitted for free. You can collect your medications from the hospital pharmacy or from any private pharmacy. If you pick them up from a private pharmacy, there is usually a small financial contribution depending on your diagnosis (this changes depending on the weather and/or the mood of the department of health). You can always request to get generic medications (we call them genosima) for most psychiatric medications. These are more or less the same like the branded ones. With generic medications your financial contribution is even smaller. But still if you cannot afford even a small contribution then the the hospital pharmacies provide these medications for free.
Here is a list of all the public psychiatric clinics on duty (we call them efimereuon): https://www.vrisko.gr/en/hospital-duties/athens/psychiatric
2. Try to find a mental health NGO and your local community mental health team.
There is not much out there but there is a growing list of government sponsored mental heath centres that provide outpatient psychiatric and psychological care.
They are trying to spread the care across different localities so you will usually have access to an NGO or a government sponsored mental health centre.
There you may find everything really. A psychiatrist to look after your meds, a psychologist/social worker/or nurse to provide some psychotherapy, and even a day care programme to keep yourself busy. If these centres are funded by the department of health then they are completely free. You are not expected to pay anything for their services.
They are not really promoting their care in English but with a little bit of patience and luck you will find professionals who may be able to work in English with you. If you are patient you can even help them to improve their English.
3. Find a private mental health centre that provides mental health training to professionals.
There is an extensive network of private psychotherapy centres that provide training to psychologists and psychiatrists. There you may be able to get access to a well motivated psychologist/psychiatrist who would be very keen to provide psychotherapy to you at no cost or at a very low rate.
If you have a steady psychiatrist to look after your meds from a public hospital then getting psychotherapy from a training centre would complement nicely your free or very affordable mental health care in Greece.
You will usually find both individual and group psychotherapy programmes. You may not get the most expert mental health professionals but they will be motivated, and they will have supervision by expert therapists.
BipolarLab.com, our private mental health centre, has just started its own comprehensive training programme so our few trainees are here to help. We are still recruiting mental health professionals for our training programme so we cannot do much for the time being but if you cannot afford our private care then we will be able to provide an initial assessment at no cost to you, and direct you to appropriate public services. You may complete our initial screening form here: http://bit.ly/bipolarlab_screening
You can also check how you are mentally by using some of our freely available tests here: https://www.bipolarlab.com/tests-1
If you cannot afford private care, please let us know about it in the comments/feedback section.
At any event do not despair. Remain flexible and patient, and you will be able to get the help that you may need.
Keep checking this article as we will update it with more relevant resources in due course.
Wishes for a healthy 2021!
Dr Yanni Malliaris Clinical Psychologist
Doctorate of the Institute of Psychiatry
King's College London
University of London