Did you know that women are 2 times more likely to be depressed than men are? Or that eating raisin slowing (mindfully) every morning for 10-mins is an effective mind exercise? While proper sleep, good eating habits & exercise can be beneficial in reliving stress, says Massachusetts/Harvard Medical Experts.
World Mental Health Day is observed annually on October 10th. This year, in a first of its kind event in Kuwait, Alaa & Dalal Alhomaizi of the S.P.E.A.K. campaign (Bazaar October 2012 issue) brought together international medical experts from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, local healthcare professionals and the public with an aim to spread the importance of mental health and lessen the stigma attached to mental illnesses.
One might wonder why the sudden discussions on mental health. “Because, in Kuwait, we tend to hush around the subject,” believes Alaa & Dalal, who effectively describe it with a term they coined – ‘Psy-lence’. “When it comes to mental illness, all we hear is silence. A man with bipolar disorder claims that his medications are just vitamins. A woman says she was buying groceries or at the movies instead of admitting, she was visiting her psychologist. A family keeps their son, who has autism, in hiding to avoid revealing his condition.”
The 2-days long event, which was a collaborative effort with the Kuwait Mental Health Center, and Ministry of Health, stressed the importance of being educated about mental health. The 6-member international delegation included Dr. David Henderson, Dr. Maurizio Fava, Dr. Gregory Fricchione, Dr. John Herman, Dr. Asha Parekh and Dr. Christina Borba, who explained that mental illnesses are more common than we tend to acknowledge. It affects 1 out 4 people during the course of their lifetime, and can lead to other medical conditions, if left untreated. For instance, Depression can increase the risk of type II diabetes or cardiovascular diseases by 2.5% in patients.
The bilingual sessions addressed a wide range of subjects. Noted Kuwaiti psychologist, Dr. Naif Al Mutawa, delivered an insightful session on the very important role we play in the lives of those suffering with mental health problems. Dr. Christina Borba, who specializes in Women and Mental Health, said during her speech, “It’s interesting to note that the mental anxiety faced by women around the globe was pretty much the same,” adding, “That some societies, like the Middle East, have better familial support system which proves very beneficial to women in particular.”
Dr. Asha Parekh, whose specializations include Mood and Anxiety Disorders, addressed children’s Mental Health advising parents and adults to be cautious while dealing with children. Alaa & Dalal conducted their presentations with primary focus on how we need to stop alienating people who are suffer with mental illnesses.
The event witnessed an impressive turnout by physicians from primary care centers, public & private hospitals, and mental health professionals from both the Kuwait Center for Mental Health and private psychological institutions in Kuwait. The public symposium was equally well attended and the diverse expertise of the Harvard/Mass General team – that ranged from children to women’s to mood disorders and schizophrenia – were informative.
The sessions concluded with ‘Ask the experts’ panel which not only opened the floor for questions from public and professionals about mental health, but also revealed the impact of the subject. A Pledge Wall (put up by SPEAK) saw doctors, students, and the public pledging to fight the stigma of mental health in Kuwait.
It is common knowledge that society is often harshly judgmental towards those unfortunate to be bipolar or autistics, and as result of our bigoted views these people tend to live in secrecy and battle their illness all alone, quiet often worsening rather than improving their condition or lifestyle.
“We have been planning this conference for a while and it took a lot of hard work to pull it off. The event would not be possible without the wholehearted support of our mentors at the Harvard/Massachusetts Hospital, Kuwait Center for Mental Health, and our generous sponsors and supporters,” said the Alhomaizi twins, adding resolutely, “SPEAK will continue this fight until one day the stigma of mental illness is a thing of history.”