Muscat: To fight stigma against mental illness, campaigners have launched a drive in the schools and colleges of Salalah city in the southern Dhofar province.
“The campaign aims to raise public awareness about mental health and fight the tendency of ostracising those afflicted with mental illness,” Dr Hamed Al Sinawi, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH) told the Times of Oman.
Given the growing and dramatic changes happening around the globe at various levels, he said, having a conversation about mental well-being and addressing the impact of psychiatric illnesses is of paramount importance.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, he said, 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide and by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease.
“There is emerging evidence that positive mental health and early treatment of mental disorders are associated with improved health outcomes,” he said, but added, “However, stigma attached to mental illness is a major obstacle stopping people from seeking help from mental health professionals, especially in our part of the world.”
In this regard, Dr Mohammed Al Alawi, Senior House Officer at the SQUH, department of behavioural medicine, also presented his research at the national mental health conference in Salalah city.
The survey, campaigners said, was an initial step in ‘Your Mental Health’ campaign that aims to raise public awareness about mental health and fight stigma against mental illness.
They said 612 individuals from all over Oman participated in the electronic survey including 59 percent females.
Of the total number of participants, 41 percent were from Muscat and the rest were from other provinces.
They fell in the age bracket of 15 years to 65 years with about 46 percent aged 15-30 years.
Those who worked in the health sector represented 25 percent of the total respondents while the remaining worked in different sectors, for example, educational, industrial, governmental and students.
Campaigners said the study revealed that one out of three respondents knew someone with symptoms indicative of mental illness and the overall score that measures the perception towards mental illness was “favourable.”
However, the age group of 15-30 years had “less positive” attitude towards mental illness and people with mental disorders compared to the older age groups.
“People working in the health sector had a more positive view towards people with mental illness,” Dr Hamed said.
“Moreover, contact with people suffering from mental illness was associated with more positive attitude towards people with mental health related issues,” he said.