Mental illnesses affect people of all ages in all countries and societies, from the boy soldier in Sierra Leone traumatized by years of bloody civil war to the aging farmer in Oklahoma suffering from depression. These illnesses have a profound impact on the quality of life for individuals and families and stunt economic growth in societies around the world.
To promote awareness of these issues, The Carter Center -- in partnership with The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group --is coordinating a series of events over three days in South Africa in observance of World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, 2007.
"Most people with mental illnesses can live at home, hold jobs, and function as contributing members of society," said Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of The Carter Center and chair of the Center's Mental Health Task Force. "There is tremendous potential to improve the public's understanding of mental health issues and to reduce discrimination against people with mental illnesses."
In a 2001 report, the World Health Organization estimated that about 450 million people living around the world suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. Yet these illnesses remain some of the most unrecognized and underreported health problems. People continue to suffer silently because they are unable to access the services they require or they worry about social stigma surrounding their disorder.
From Oct. 9-11, representatives from The Carter Center, The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, led by the former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik, and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group will meet with national health organizations, psychiatrists, advocacy networks, and journalists in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, in an effort to promote awareness of mental health issues and call attention to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illnesses in South Africa and worldwide.
As part of an international effort to reduce the stigma against people with mental illnesses and counter the often incorrect and stereotypical information perpetuated through the media, the Carter Center Mental Health Program, led by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founded the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism in 1997.
Each year the program awards stipends to 10 working journalists to study and report on global mental health issues. Fellows hail from the United States, South Africa, and Romania and work with mentors from the mental health field on their year-long projects.
Read about three Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellows around the globe working to change the public's misperceptions about mental illnesses.
|Tamar Kahn, Business Day, South Africa:
"In South Africa, a Journalist Finds Words for Unspeakable Tragedies"
|Michelle Roberts, The Oregonian, United States:
"Mental Health Fellow Breaks Down Stereotypes"
|Alexandru Ulmanu, Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Bucharest, Romania:
"Journalism Fellowships Expand to Romania"
Mental disorders are among the most prevalent of all health conditions worldwide. They impact individuals, families, and communities, yet lack of attention to mental health issues remains a global concern.
Carter Center Photo: D. Hakes
Journalists in all forms of media play an increasingly important role in shaping public understanding and debate about health care issues. As part of an international effort to reduce stigma and discrimination, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism provide grants to journalists to study a selected topic regarding mental health or mental illnesses.