The annual World Mental Health Day is on Friday October 10th. It is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy that was first celebrated in 1992. It is a brilliant opportunity for people all over the world to come together and make a difference – perhaps by raising awareness of mental illness and educating others, standing up to mental health stigma, raising vital funds to help the vulnerable people affected, or by sharing mental health experiences. WMHD is also the perfect time to start the conversation about the whole spectrum of mental health conditions. Mental illness is an ever-growing problem, and yet so many people suffer in silence: feeling unable to speak about their mental health and receive the help they so desperately need. We can all help and often the simplest things can be the most effective– like sending a text to a friend who is struggling or having a cup of tea and chat.
Each year there is a theme and this year it is Living with Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a most misunderstood mental disorder and many people wrongly believe that it is a split personality. It is not: sufferers have difficulty in recognising what is real and this affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. This is timely as Biology and Psychology students from both Minsthorpe and Ossett took part in a Brain Day held here at the college on September 18th where they had university-style lectures on modern neuroscience and learned about cutting edge research on the workings of the human brain and nervous system. A keynote lecture was on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia and it looked at the biological and social factors that seem to trigger the disorder.
In the UK, the incidence rate of schizophrenia is 1/10,000 people per year and people are at the most risk of developing the disorder from their late teens to mid-thirties. Globally, it is estimated that about 26 million are affected. Yet, despite being a treatable disorder, more than 50% of people with schizophrenia cannot access adequate treatment.
As a society, mental illness is something that we need to talk about if we are to dispel the popular myths that schizophrenics are mainly deranged and murderous. Nothing could be further from the truth. 90% of people with untreated schizophrenia live in the developing world and the vast majority make a positive contribution to society. In history, the list of people who have lived with schizophrenia include van Gough, the painter; John Nash, Nobel Memorial Prize winner in Economic Sciences; Philip K. Dick, sci-fi writer; Syd Barrett of the band Pink Floyd; Nijinsky, the famous ballet Russian dancer and Jack Kerouac, American beat poet. WMHD gives us the chance to re-think our collective attitudes to mental illness because, together, we can change mental health for good.