The term ‘mental illness’ tends to evoke images of persons living in deep despair, struggling with inner demons and having little chance of experiencing any kind of well-being. While certain people may acquire mental illnesses that can be quite disabling, most people recover well and are able to live fulfilling lives as active member of their communities. Challenging the desolate images described above requires an unearthing of the stories and accounts of people who have successfully coped with mental illness. This is therefore one of the most important goals of the Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) 2014. This goal stems from the understanding that the more hidden mental illness remains, the more people continue to believe that it is shameful- resulting in an even greater need to conceal it. One sees here a vicious cycle with grave consequences for those diagnosed with mental illnesses and their families. It is hoped that the first-hand accounts of persons with mental illness shall provide new and unique insights to students, as well dispel myths that continue to trouble the field of mental health. Some of these myths include believing that mental illness is caused by character flaws, people with mental illness are violent and that they should be kept in hospital.
There are obviously certain factors that determine the extent to which a person can adequately cope with a mental illness. These include quality of treatment received, social support, economic status and cultural beliefs about mental illness. Another focus of MHAW 2014 shall be identifying the greatest challenges that stand in the way of our nation with respect to treating mental illnesses and how these can be overcome. Students must understand the ground realities when it comes to treating mental illness in India. We also seek to highlight the laws in the country that pertain to the management of mental illnesses and the rights that must be accorded to patients and their families.
The focus of MHAW 2014 may be summarised as follows:
• Understanding the experience of a mental illness through accounts by people who have been coped well with a mental disorder.
• Challenging myths and tackling the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
• Learning how practising professionals in India approach treatment and the challenges they face in the process.
• Understanding laws that pertain to mental health and the rights that need to be accorded to persons with mental illness and their families.
We hope to present the issues mentioned above through a variety of formats. Do join us in executing what promises to be a week full of invigorating talks, presentations, competitions and a theatrical production by the students of the psychology department.
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