By Dr. Mark Ritzen
Mental diseases have a huge impact on our quality of live, our ability to experience happiness. Nevertheless, mental illnesses remain often undiagnosed or untreated.
This problem can both be found in rich countries as well as (even more severe) in developing countries.
Besides fear for stigmatization, feelings of shame and guild, or simple a lack of knowledge concerning specific symptoms, this might be caused by a lack of psychiatric health-care, a poor accessibility to health-care or too high treatment costs.
To treat a person’s psychiatric problems, to improve his mental health, means to support him in feeling a respected and participating member of society.
Unfortunately, this turns out to be be more difficult than one might expect.
Highly demanding societies, a very narrow definition of success, an increasing interpersonal competition, as well as a profound individualism have increased the gap between healthy persons and those who suffer from mental problems. Therefor, re- integrating people in a society has become a highly complex job.
Nowadays, treating people with mental diseases has become more and more a matter for highly trained professionals, who normally use to work in specialized facilities (for example psychiatric hospitals) that are, in a certain way ironically, separated from “normal ” society (and thus not very suited to facilitate a reintegration process)
Being a social living being by nature, it is difficult to expect a person to re-experience happiness without an adequate re-integration in society. I think it is crucial to enable a person ( with or without psychiatric problems) to develop themselves while dialoging in a respectful and healthy way, with their surrounding social environment.
Social isolation, stigmatization, marginalisation, and societal individualism might participate to the problem that many persons, suffering from a mental disease remain untreated, lonely and sometimes even forgotten by the society they used to live in.
To facilitate access to support for mental health issues, to improve the situation of social isolation, to re-responsibilize a community for the mental health of its individuals, several very interesting projects (especially for the developing world), have been developed. Examples are the “community therapy” by professor Adalberto Barreto, or the “MANAS” (MANashanti Sudhar Shodh, which means “project to promote mental health”) trial by professor Vikram Patell.
These programs invite people to become guardians of their own health, to help and to support each other. The Community itself activates and uses its power to support mentally troubled participants in their healing process.
Even if those programs partly have been developed to compensate poor accessibility/ poor resources in developing countries, I think they are excellent examples of how an important part of the responsibility to integrate mental ill people can be brought back to where it belongs: Within society; to all people making part of it.
At ted.com I found this interesting video with professor Vikram Patell, who recommends us to “dare to care”:
Other interesting links: