Dr Neville Misquitta, Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW)
Dr Neville Misquitta at MHAW, Mumbai

Mental Health Awareness Week at Carter Road, Mumbai was hosted in a public park without barriers to any citizen who happened to be on that stretch of Mumbai over those two days. Mental health conferences and events are mostly attended by mental health professionals, and occasionally by caregivers – indirectly affected by mental health problems of their loved ones. At the MHAW event a subset of people, who might never have considered mental health even as a concept, were made aware.

Mental health awareness and stigma

One in ten children has a mental illness that impairs academic performance. However, few are recognised and fewer receive treatment. The World Health Organization indicates that psychiatric disorders will be one of the five most common illnesses among children by 2020. 

My talk on Mental Health and Academic Performance in Children highlighted the mental health problems that impact the future livelihood of these children through adverse career outcomes. Teachers and students were concerned with the modalities of dealing with ADHD, learning disorders, cannabis use, and other disorders of children and adolescents. 

Educating the public about mental health and mental illness in children is a key concern. Mental Health Awareness Week is a major opportunity for promoting child and adolescent mental health and for mitigating the risk factors of mental illness.

Mental Health Awareness Week is held in the first full week of October every year since 1990. It coincides with World Mental Health Day on 10th October. The stigma of mental illness is a major barrier to seeking treatment. 

Stigma is of three types:
  1. Public stigma - the harmful effects of prejudice and discrimination by the general population
  2. Self-stigma - the harmful effects of prejudice which people with mental illness turn against themselves
  3. Label avoidance - avoiding stigma by not seeking mental health services from which labels or diagnosis are obtained. 

Challenging mental illness stigma is essential for helping individuals to attain recovery. Mental Health Awareness Week programs seek to erase public stigma and label avoidance through education, and contact.

References

  1. US Department of Health and Human Services; US Department of Education; US Department of Justice. Report of the Surgeon General's Conference on Children's Mental Health: A National Action Agenda. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2000.
  2. Patrick W Corrigan and Amy C Watson. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. 2002 February; 1(1): 16–20.
  3. Patrick Corrigan. A toolkit for evaluating programs meant to erase the stigma of mental illness (Revised). Illinois institute of Technology. 2012
  4. Corrigan, Patrick W, and Abigail Wassel. Understanding and influencing the stigma of mental illness. Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services 46.1 (2008): 42-48.

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