May 2017 \ News \ MIND AND BODY
Speaking To A Wider Audience About The Positive Contributions Of Psychiatry

The contemporary world is a complex and stressful place. Most people at some or the other point in their lives stand to benefit by psychiatry. There is however a very disturbing trend.

By Dr Uttam Garg

One of the goals included in the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Action Plan 2008-2011 was to strive to improve the image of psychiatry and psychiatrists in the eyes of the health professionals, the general public, health decision makers and students of health and allied professions.

Studies on the topic have identified the positive impact of improving people’s knowledge about the mental disorders, in form of “mental health first aid course”, on the overall perception and service utility. Presentations given by psychiatrists in local high schools were found to improve mental health knowledge, help seeking attitudes and appreciation of psychiatry.

A major area of action in this regard is fine-tuning the depiction of psychiatry in the mainstream media. This is a pre requisite for changing public opinion, particularly by promoting realistic depictions of psychiatric illnesses, psychiatric treatments and outcomes. It has been suggested that mental health professionals as well as patients should be more present in the media, in order to provide a more accurate picture of psychiatric treatments and their consumers. For example, The Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) ran a 5-year campaign ‘Changing Minds’. The aim was to reduce the stigma of mental illness through activities such as road shows, local events and a cinema trailer. The Royal College of Psychiatrists also has a network of Divisional Public Education Officers, whose role is to support the local media in presenting accurate information on mental health, writing articles, being a contact point for journalists, writing to complain about discrimination and supporting others in protesting.