WASHINGTON – The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has launched a new campaign seeking to curb the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health conditions, and promote positive interactions that improve their search for help.
PAHO said various studies show that stereotypes, prejudices and discriminatory behaviours towards people with mental health problems are common.
Through messages on social media, PAHO said that, by using “#DoYourShare”, people are “invited to break the silence, share their stories, and have an open and honest conversation about how one really feels, and thereby, provide mental health support and reduce stigma and discrimination.”
“The more we talk about our mental health, the closer we get to reducing the stigma that surrounds it,” said Renato Oliveira e Souza, chief of PAHO’s Mental Health unit, adding “and when the stigma diminishes or disappears, seeking and receiving support becomes more feasible.”
PAHO said mental health conditions, which are common around the world, have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, “which had a general impact across the population”.
It pointed to a study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, which estimates a 35 per cent increase in depressive disorders and a 32 per cent rise in anxiety disorders in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2020, due to the pandemic.
“It is possible for most people to recover from mental health conditions if they receive the necessary care,” Oliveira e Souza said.
“For that to happen, health professionals must ensure a safe environment and provide quality, inclusive care that is free of labels.”
Teacher Sahar Vasquez, who experienced a mental health condition firsthand and is now a member of PAHO’s High-level Commission on Mental Health and COVID-19, said PAHO’s campaign is “crucial to helping people understand that any of us can face a mental health condition at some point in our life, and that this doesn’t have to block our goals and dreams in life”.
In addition to ending the stigma and discrimination that stand in the way of recovery, PAHO’s campaign urges national authorities to guarantee funding for mental health care, train more professionals in this area, and distribute them appropriately, “so that everyone who needs them can access them.”
PAHO said people who visit its website will be able to access videos, infographics, social media cards, and other resources on what they can do to reduce stigma and discrimination, share their story, and support mental health.
More than 30 countries in the region of the Americas have joined the initiative so far, and will carry out various awareness-raising activities.
The campaign was launched on the eve of World Mental Health Day, which is celebrated annually on October 10 to raise awareness about mental health issues around the world.
PAHO said the day is also an opportunity to mobilize support to improve the mental well-being of the population.
“Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. Mental health is a basic human right,” PAHO added. (CMC)