Mental Health Awareness and Training Program
(10–19 years) is a unique and formative time. Whilst most adolescents have good mental health, multiple physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. Promoting psychological well-being and protecting adolescents from adverse experiences and risk factors which may impact their potential to thrive are not only critical for their well-being during adolescence, but also for their physical and mental health in adulthood.
A healthy, safe and enriching physical and social environment promoters individual and community mental health. The predictable negative influences on mental health of poverty, discrimination, malnutrition, environmental factors (including access to safe water, toilets and sanitation), exposure to violence and absence of parental figures (death, divorce or displacement) affect individuals across their life span. Certain life stages have unique challenges which should be recognized and addressed to promote mental health and overall health and wellbeing of a population. Negative influences have varied impact depending on life stages for example malnutrition affects children worse than adults. There has been a relative neglect both in policy and practice of the promotion of mental health at the community level. There is however organization and institutions that have experimented, studied and worked on different mental health promotion measures this experience will be built upon.
To promote recovery and early intervention, VCS have a mission to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental health as well as to provide a holistic person-centered approach to a stress free environment for youth, women, children and the underprivileged community members through emotional and mental health support, care and education.
Mental Health First Aid Training –
Mental Health and Well-Being are both areas that have been previously marginalized and neglected in India and across the world. This relates to the historical stigma and lack of understanding attached to mental illness; however, poor mental health is a key factor that underpins many physical health problems and acts as an underlying driver for much health risk behavior, including smoking, substance misuse and obesity. Additionally, poor mental health has a significant impact on the wider society, affecting parenting skills, family and social cohesion, educational achievement, anti-social and offending behavior, sickness absence and economic productivity.
Mental health problems can affect people in different ways at any time during their lives. They affect not only individuals and their families, but friends, work colleagues and employers too. Many people suffer a mental illness for a long time before they seek help.
Mental Health First Aid an evidence base international program. VCS is a 2-day training course that teaches how to recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to deal with a crisis situation and how to spot the first signs of someone developing mental ill health. After attending the course participants able to:
- Spot the early signs of a mental health problem
- Feel confident helping someone experiencing a problem
- Provide help on a first aid basis
- Help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others
- Help stop a mental illness from getting worse
- Help someone recover faster
- Guide someone towards the right support and
- Reduce the stigma of mental health problems.
The content of the course covers a verity of mental health issues with information regarding the symptoms, treatment and ways in which first aid should be approached. The mental health issues covered include: Depression, anxiety, psychosis, self-harm and suicide.
Mental health awareness campaigns have yielded positive outcomes. Some of the strategies undertaken to target awareness and address stigma around mental illness include participation by family members, sensitization to treatment and social inclusion. Lack of knowledge about the mental illnesses poses a challenge to the mental health care delivery system. Research has highlighted the role of community-based systems in low-income countries and has also yielded positive results in creating awareness, thereby impacting participation.
Awareness and health literacy are two sides of the same coin. Stigma and discrimination are negative consequences of ignorance and misinformation. There are a few studies which have measured mental health literacy in the Indian context. One study found mental health literacy among adolescents to be very low, i.e. depression was identified by 29.04% and schizophrenia/psychosis was recognized only by 1.31%. Stigma was noted to be present in help-seeking.
These findings reinforce the need to increase awareness of mental health. Mental health literacy is a related concept which is increasingly seen as an important measure of the awareness and knowledge of mental health disorders. Health literacy has been described as ability to access, understand, and use the information to promote and maintain good health.
Considering that most of the earlier strategies to enhance mental health have not succeeded over the past six or seven decades or more in less-developed countries, the time has come to take on a new approach with renewed vigor. Mental health awareness can become both the means and the way of ending this apathy. Progressive government policies based on evidence-based approaches, an engaged media, a vibrant educational system, a responsive industry, aggressive utilization of newer technologies and creative crowd-sourcing might together help dispel the blight of mental illnesses.