Time flies, “Health-in-Mind” enters its 10thanniversary.
Looking back, advocacy for the social inclusion of individuals suffering from mental health difficulties have never been easy. Although society’s awareness for mental health has been improving, stigma and discrimination on mental illnesses are still very common.
In movies or TV dramas, psychiatric hospitals were usually portrayed as murky and dreary places, filled with violent or disturbed individuals. Psychiatrists and psychologists, using their injection or hypnotic tricks, usually appeared manipulative and scheming. “Mental illness” is a term associated with senses of uneasiness, fear and rejection.
When compared to other physical illnesses, receiving treatment for mental illnesses is always more complicated. For one thing, disclosing psychiatric distress to others bears the risk of stigmatization; for another, many believed that once entered psychiatric institutes, they would never be “normal” again; and hence the treatment delays which further aggregate symptoms severity. Thus, being able to stride forward in a mental health facility takes a lot of courage.
One of the most important objectives of “Health-in-Mind” programme is to encourage our younger generation to deepen their understanding about mental health. Through workshops and personal contact, participants were led to discuss and reflect on the stigmatization and discrimination issues among mental illnesses sufferers. In the 10th anniversary focus group discussions, many participants indicated that, in contrast to their impression, psychiatric hospital was a place to recuperate than to segregate; most mental health service users were friendly and active instead of aggressive or dull as previously thought. Apart from personal contact, “Teens” have also taken up the roles as advocates to promote anti-stigma messages to their fellow schoolmates. In the process, they were able to meet people from different walks of life, listen to different life stories and experienced the significance of interpersonal understanding and acceptance.
Life has never been easy. At times of adversity, most of us would hope for a helping hand instead of a slamming door. Understanding and accepting individual suffering from mental illnesses is imperative for their rehabilitation and re-integration!!