World Mental Health Day: in times of crisis

The importance of raising awareness of mental health, or mental ill health, is ever relevant. Today, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, where I am Press Officer, joined the Heads Together campaign of which we are a partner charity, in marking World Mental Health Day. One of the key aims of the day was to recognise that all of us will experience a traumatic event or transitional period at some point in our lives, and be that involvement in a car accident; exposure to persistent bullying; or a specific mental health crisis, emotional fall-out is often to be expected. With such an expectation comes an opportunity to share how we can be supported through difficult times. Through such distress, psychological support from each other, as well as from professionals, can be invaluable sources of care-giving and therapy.

We supported an event held at the riverside County Hall and the London Eye, attended by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry who met guests with stories of crisis and their supporting cast of friends, family, and education and clinical professionals who have played a role in helping them through these difficult times. Since starting in this role, such involvement with the Heads Together campaign has created a demanding but brilliant opportunity to rapidly implement and develop press skills and promote awareness for psychological wellbeing in a way that carries integrity to the real experiences of those showcased or helped through the work of the Centre.

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Of course, working in London, for a national charity, it can be easy to forget that this day is celebrated globally and, further, that such commitment to supporting one another and normalising the conversation on mental health must be a continuous endeavour, rather than the perceived efforts of a single day. With this in mind, and having recently submitted my Masters dissertation looking at the psychosocial impacts on persons affected by leprosy (PAL), it seems as good a time as any to highlight, again, the work of Lepra, the organisation who hosted me so brilliantly in Bangladesh during my primary data collection research in the Sirajganj district. In an article published on their website today, they cited preliminary findings from this research  which set out to: 1) Assess the psychosocial impact of leprosy-related disability by employing mixed methods 2) Determine what is understood by ‘psychological’ and ‘mental health’ among this population and  3) Explore perceptions of leprosy at both personal and policy-levels, and its relation to mental health.

Key messages from this exploration into mental health initially highlight that:

  • Lack of education around leprosy is the primary reason for delayed presentation to appropriate medical services.
  • Within this context, leprosy-related disability is figured solely in physical terms classified under medical frames of reference.
  • ‘Alienation’ conceptualises the life experience of the PAL in this study, influenced by trauma, mental and physical disability, and lack of explanatory theoretical frameworks.
  • Following education, economic seed projects were identified as a sustainable, acceptable intervention to tackle the psychosocial impact of leprosy-related disability on past and future PAL in this region by promoting social integration and financial self-sufficiency.

What these findings show is that education of mental health is critical, acknowledging that it needs regular ‘checks’ and appropriate response to challenges i.e. that parity between physical and psychological health must be prioritised and remain a focus for us all.

 

Image Credits (all): A.Bow-Bertrand

Header image: Felix E. Guerrero, Flicke

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