Mental Health Education and Mental Health Promotion:
A proposal for policy at a national level
ZISSI A., STYLIANIDIS S.
In the transition from the bio-medical to the bio-psychological model, interventions with a focus on prevention, mental health education and mental health promotion are a priority. the present paper argues for the necessity of planning and implementing policies for mental health promotion and mental health education at three different levels: individual, community and social. Following the conceptual clarifications of the basic terms, the paper presents arguments which focus on the use of pertinent policies as a means to promote health issues andthe wide social development.
More specifically, the reasons that make planning and implementation of mental health promotion interventions necessary can be described as follows: a) a positive mental health supports the individual’s potential to a great degree and his/her capabilities to respond to roles and situations more efficiently: the strengthened internal resources (a feeling of self-worth, self-efficacy, perceived control, self-determination and optimism) contribute greatly to a more positive approach to life, b) a poor mental health constitutes a risk factor for physical problems to occur: a large body of research shows a link between stress, cardiovascular diseases, a poor immune system, cancer, asthma and chronic diseases, c) everyone may face mental health problems during his/her lifes, therefore, mental health problems are everyone’s concern, d) prevelance rates of major depression -not only of mental disorders- are some of the highest worldwide and are expected to be increased: depression will constitute the second most important cause of disability in the world, and finally, little attention has been paid to issues promoting mental health.
Apert from interventions for mental health promotion, it is equally important to place an emphasis on mental health education with a view to correcting stereotyped perceptions about people with chronic and serious mental health difficulties. In particular, a) individuals with serious and persistent mental disorders who, themselves as well as their families, have to deal with stigmatization and social prejudice, b) stigmatization and social discrimination pose a threat to mental health and also have a negative influence on the prognosis of mental disorders.
The interventions with regard to mental health education mainly aim at a) suppressing negative social reactions, stigmatization and negative stereotypes that ensue a mental disorder and restrain mechanisms of exclusion and social discrimination to the detriment of mentally ill individuals and b) at increasing the sensitivity and awareness of the general population, as well as social groups with power leverage (e.g. reporters), in issues such as mental disorders, mental health services and ways to seek professional help.
The interventions with an emphasis on mental health promotion concern three different levels: individual, community and social. On the individual level, interventions aim at promoting a positive mental health for individuals by strengthening their internal resources, capabilities, skills and overall potential cope with life’s difficulties, everyday stress in critical incidents. On the community level, interventions for mental health promotion entail the creation of social support and solidarity networks which aim at strengthening social cohesion and collective action. Finally, interventions to promote mental health, on awider social level, are to a great extent about offering equal opportunities and conditions to social groups which have different social and cultural characteristics and are exposed to different societal pressures.
Key words: Mental health, mental health education, mental health promotion.