In our busy and fast world, mental health is becoming more and more important. Our emotional, psychological and social well-being have a direct impact on our daily life and how we face its obstacles. However, people enduring IBD face additional quotidian challenges that may damage their mental health. These unpleasant experiences and battles are also hard to share with their loved ones, due to stigma and the difficulty in understanding by those without IBD.

This is why it is crucial that professionals treating IBD patients must consider and address patient mental health as well. And this is what we are talking about in this edition of IBD&Tea – “The gut-brain dialogue: addressing mental health in IBD patients”. As the mental dimension of a chronic disease like IBD is a complex topic, we have invited three speakers who have different perspectives and vital experiences to share. This diversity of voices is what makes this meeting special.

To start with, we will host Dr Guido Corradi, a psychologist and researcher who is also an IBD patient. According to Dr Corradi, “Mental health is a key factor. You cannot think about your chronic condition without taking your mental health into account. Mental health, in my own personal experience, affects the course of the illness through behaviour and is affected by the illness itself”.

Imagining it is not the same as hearing it from someone in the first person as Dr Corradi tells us about his own experiences: “As an example, in 2016, I was under one of my biggest episodes of colitis and also under a stressful situation at home.  Both factors interacted and led to a deterioration in my health as being a little depressed made me leave my healthy behaviours out and I didn’t care about the medication. “

Unfortunately, sometimes a bad mental health state can even put physical health at risk. Dr Corradi adds, “I was so bad emotionally that I didn’t care about my condition. This resulted in 10 extra centimetres of my bowel deterioration and hospitalization due to the malnutrition caused by the overwhelming situation”.

In relation to this, we have sought the vision of Dr Meredith R Craven about the importance of considering mental health in IBD patients. Dr. Craven is a clinical health psychology resident at the San Francisco VA Medical Center with a speciality in psychogastroenterology.

“Patients’ mental health should be considered when treating IBD as it is a fundamental part of one’s health and subjective well-being. We also know that patients with IBD are at increased risk for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.” Dr Craven says.

Further, Dr Craven adds that mental health and physical health are intimately related: “When patients have a mental health condition it can worsen their IBD symptoms and make it that much harder to do what’s important to them – like spend time with people or take medications.”.

It is clear that mental health is an essential factor while treating IBD patients. However, do medical practitioners have the tools to do so? To answer this question, we have invited Dr Julian Panés, Chief of IBD Unit at Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and partner of our New Deal project to weigh in.

Dr Panés says that “the situation is heterogeneous in different countries and different IBD Units, but in many IBD Units, we are short of resources to help patients improve their mental health. Integration of a psychologist in the multidisciplinary team would be ideal, or at least having sufficient time in the outpatient clinic to address the issue of mental health and make recommendations as IBD specialists on life habits or specific psychological referrals.”

Having heard from the three participants, we are sure that this IBD&Tea online debate will be enriching for patients, physicians and psychologists alike. Do not miss this event and register for free at this link. If you have any questions that you´d like to pose to the panel, you can also leave them while registering. See you on the 30th March at 16:00 CET!