University of Oulu

Isohanni, Matti (2019) Mental health of high-level politicians and soldiers in Finland : diagnostics, public discussion and treatment. Psychiatria Fennica 50, 154-163.

Mental health of high-level politicians and soldiers in Finland : diagnostics, public discussion and treatment

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Author: Isohanni, Matti
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Psykiatrian Tutkimussäätiö, 2019
Publish Date: 2021-12-07


The presence of psychiatric disorders among high-level politicians and military leaders has been noted in historical studies and in the media. This article focuses on political and military leadership in Finland during the wartime period of 1939–1944 and to 1981. The historical literature contains well-described cases, but lacks properly designed studies focusing on epidemiological and medical issues. High-level leadership is demanding and stressful during wartime, but has also been in general over the past several decades. Leadership positions do not necessary facilitate early detection of and intervention in mental disorders. In the media, psychiatrists should ensure that people with mental illness are treated in a manner which preserves their dignity. Commonly accepted ethical principles stress that psychiatrists should not make announcements to the media about presumed psychopathology and diagnosis of any individuals. For a psychiatrist, the care of these eminent persons presents a clinical challenge that requires experience, clinical skills and multidisciplinary team work, usually within the occupational health system.

Emperor Nero burned Rome — modern leaders may burn the whole world. While unstable dictators mainly belong in history books, democracy and decentralized power do not always offer protection against such leaders. This article focuses on Finnish heads of state and military leaders, particularly from 1939 to 1981.

The state of health of those working in demanding positions, such as soldiers, can be monitored; the President of Finland is also the commander-in-chief of the Finnish Defence Forces. The state of health of soldiers, including their mental health, must fulfil specific requirements. Most likely, no standard models to monitor or treat the mental health of high-level leaders exist. Only limited research data is available in this area.

I have previously written an article in Finnish of the mental health of top executives (1). The bibliography of this article lists key sources (in Finnish) of the medical records of Finland’s Presidents and military leaders during Finland’s wars.

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Series: Psychiatria Fennica
ISSN: 2489-6152
ISSN-E: 2489-6152
ISSN-L: 2489-6152
Volume: 50
Pages: 154 - 163
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3124 Neurology and psychiatry
Copyright information: © 2019 The Authors. This journal uses a CC BY license. All articles published by the Psychiatria Fennica are made freely and permanently accessible online immediately upon publication, without subscription charges or registration barriers.