Mental Health Awareness Week, which was celebrated this week throughout the country and in the Knesset, is coming to an end, and senior officials in the field welcome the initiative of Knesset members to address the issue and raise public awareness.
“Every event like this increases the margins of this community for people who do not know it exists and empowers the people who are in it,” explains Dr. Zvi Fishel, chairman of the National Mental Health Council. “When imagining a psychiatric patient, we think of the worst extremism of all and throw all our fears on it. That maybe it’s some kind of monster. “The more people we see living in the community, most of them very successful, some of them very well known, understand the breadth of the mental struggles.”
Regarding the social stigma on mental health, Dr. Fischel adds: “It is decreasing and we see it in the media, at all levels of government, in society and in the education system. The stigma is an automatic response that happens to us when we hear about a subject and attribute all sorts of unfounded things to it, but it must be distinguished from the discrimination that follows. “Between ignoring and hurting, there is a possibility to help that person.”
Daphne Buster, chair of the Friends of Geha Mental Health Association, adds that “it took a week like this to raise awareness and shatter the stigma. There is no person around who is not at least one person who is dealing with a mental illness, and everyone is ashamed. I think this activity helps a lot in people not to be ashamed. When you are not ashamed of the disease, you treat it and heal it.
“The goal is to stop the concealment and encourage people to take care of themselves. In that sense, a week of awareness like this is another step on the way to achieving the goal.”
Buster notes that six years ago, the Friends of Geha Association launched a program aimed at removing the stigma from mental coping, adding: “I think what is being done now in the Knesset and in the media is very helpful.”