Welcome to the Congress
The theme of the II Congress on Mental Health: Meeting the Needs of the XXI Century – Education and Mental Health - opens at least three important areas of discourse. The first is that of the impact that formal or informal education on mental health of all citizens; the second is that of the education of professionals whose duty is to promote mental health and the third that of education of people with mental illness and of their families – as well as of society at large - about mental illness and its consequences and about its prevention.
In dealing with the first of these topics mental health professionals have at best an advisory role. The family, schools, information sources in the public domain - now predominantly in the digital world – as well as the relationship with peers all contribute to our education and none of these is easily accessible to mental health professionals. Yet, although limited, the advisory role of mental health professionals is important: to be able to use it well they will have to learn much more about the functioning of families and peer groups, about ways to use the media and other sources of information and about the ways in which they can translate their knowledge about mental health into practical advice and simple words.
To respond to the second challenge teachers of health professionals will have to ensure that the schooling of health workers, psychologists, social workers and others involved in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders (and in the promotion of mental health) not only provides the necessary knowledge but also gives students skills necessary to use their knowledge and attitudes which will ensure that they use it to the benefit of their clients and of society at large.
The third area of discourse mentioned above raises additional challenges. Today it is clear that people with mental illness and their families or other carers must play an active role in the process of treatment and in the recovery from mental illness. It is no longer acceptable to see those who suffer from mental disorders as passive recipients of medications and of guidance about behavior. The way out of mental illness must be seen as a common enterprise involving those who have the illness, those who are close to them and those who have access to knowledge about ways of dealing with the disease. Education of the participants in this process requires a new understanding of the role of mental illness and mental health – an understanding that has to be developed and conveyed in new and efficient ways of communication.
The II Moscow Congress on Mental Health will address these issues: its success depends on the extent to which it will open the door to a continuing examination of the above issues combined with a willingness to change whenever and whatever is necessary to improve mental health of those with mental illness and of the population at large.
President of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes, Honorable Chairman of the International Organizing Committee (Germany and Switzerland)