October 10, 2009: A Good Day to Think About the Importance of Mental Health

Ziad Kronfol, MD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar

Q: What is World Mental Health Day and What Activities Mark the Day?

A. October 10 is designated by the World Health Organization as a day to promote greater public awareness and understanding of mental health and mental illness around the world. Introduced in 1992 by the World Federation of Mental Health, it is now
celebrated in more than 100 countries.

At Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, we are promoting a range of activities to make our students, faculty and staff aware of the importance of mental health in personal well-being, family relationships and the ability to contribute to society.

As the only medical college in Qatar, WCMC-Q can be instrumental in promoting thisyear’s theme, which is the importance of integrating mental health into primary health care. Our faculty members are discussing with our students ways to incorporate mental health practices into everyday care for patients. We are also showing our students a video on the topic during one of their psychology classes. Information about available resources is available for several hours daily during the week at a kiosk in the Medical College, staffed by people who can provide guidance to those interested in obtaining
additional information.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, at 3:30 p.m., WCMC-Q is hosting a seminar on mental and physical health that is open to everyone in Education City. A panel of experts will discuss topics such as depression, stress management, and resilience. Their presentations will be followed by a question and answer period.

Q: Why Is It Important to Focus on Mental Health?

A. Mental health disorders are prevalent around the world, occurring at all stages of life and in all cultures. The World Health Organization estimates mental disorders are a major source of disability. Depression, in particular, is a leading cause of disability
worldwide, second only to cardiovascular disease, according to WHO. Unfortunately, resources for promoting greater awareness, education and treatment of mental disorders are insufficient, especially in developing countries. By focusing attention on mental
health, we can help people understand the frequency of these disorders. By educating people worldwide to the treatments and resources available to them, we hope to reduce some of the unnecessary suffering related to mental illness.

Q: Is Treatment Available?

A: During the past decades, extraordinary advances have been made in our ability totreat mental illness. New medications have been developed to successfully treat avariety of conditions, notably, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety
disorders. Great progress has also been made in psychotherapeutic treatments, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Most researchstudies indicate that medications and psychotherapy complement each other and oftenwork best when used together. Gradually, we are becoming more successful in spreading the word that mental disorders are diseases of the brain that often can be successfullytreated, like many other medical disorders.

Q: Are There Ways to Prevent Mental Illness?

A: Increasingly today, research studies are aimed at identifying genetic risks for mentaldisorders. Sophisticated imaging techniques also are being used to help identify thedifferences between sick and healthy brains. As our ability improves to identify those at risk for mental illnesses, we can begin totarget appropriate prevention and treatment strategies. There is some evidence that earlyrecognition of symptoms and early treatment can facilitate recovery.

Q: What would you like to say to people on the occasion of World Mental HealthDay?

A: The World Health Organization has estimated that about 450 million people aroundthe world suffer from some form of mental illness. They should not be neglected, discriminated against, or left behind. Therefore, it is important to educate people here
and around the world about the prevalence of mental disorders, about their signs and symptoms, and about the treatments that are available. Our goal is to reduce unnecessary suffering. World Mental Health Day is an important step in that direction.


The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact your physician.