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Cinema As Tool To Create Awareness Around Mental Health Issues

21st WFMH World Congress with mental healthcare at centre-stage provides an opportunity for the service providers to gather on one platform to identify and discuss substantial mental health issues, transfer information and build networks

On the second day of the 21st WFMH World Congress there were interesting conversations and deliberations on cinema and mental health; and the proper operationalization of the soon to be implemented Mental Healthcare Act 2017.

Prominent personalities such as Prakash Jha, Actor and Director; and Mr Mohan Agashe, Senior Psychiatrist and Lucy Beresford, Writer, Broadcaster, Psychotherapist, and Actor shared their experiences and views around relationship between cinema and mental health. Psychiatrists Dr. Radhika Chimata and Dr Kumail Hussain also discussed both the upside and downside of the depictions of mental health in cinema in a separate session.

Prakash Jha, Award winning Film Producer, Director, and Actor, said that it is very fortunate for a filmmaker if he or she is able to bring out a certain issue in the course of telling a story. Films are definitely a strong medium to keep issues under discussion. Behavior or situations may not change if we make films about them. But we must keep talking about it through some media so that people do not push them under the carpet. And films are one such medium. Mental health is taking the center-stage globally and films made on the subject have been and are doing well.

Mohan Agashe, Senior Psychiatrist and Film Actor, opined, “Films are perhaps the only medium that directly penetrate the unconscious and the subconscious alike. Cinema can depict reality in a way that no other source can. However, it is not possible for anyone to educate anyone else. Unless one decides to learn themselves and educate themselves, one cannot possibly force you to learn or understand anything. Similarly, films are a medium, but the real education and awareness has to happen at a more personal level.”

Adding her views, Ms Lucy Beresford, Writer, Broadcaster, Psychotherapist, said, “Storytelling is a very powerful medium. It is how young children learn about the world around them and it is how the elders instill values into them. Storytelling, in cinema as well, is therefore an effective way to educate and create awareness about issues such as mental health.”

There was a session on operationalizing the mental healthcare  act 2017 which was also insightful and brought the discussion into the forefront. Speakers included Mandira Kala, Dr. Nimesh G Desai, Shahzada Khurram, Dr. Rajesh Nagpal and Mrinal Kanwar.

In the session on law and mental health, speakers deliberated on the issues associated with the implementation of this Act. The session focused on how the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 is a step in the right direction in ensuring that power is in the hands of people seeking care. Shahzada Khurram who is a primary care giver to his sister gave invaluable insights from his standpoint.

WCMH Organizing Chairmen Dr. Sunil Mittal opined, “While the Act itself is a positive step, we need to focus on how the act can be used for the benefit of people with mental health problems. If lack of awareness is the issue, media such as cinema can help remove this barrier, given its reach.”

Other highlights of the day included sessions on Law and Mental Health, mental health at the workplace and social work profession; burnout in mental health professionals and caregivers; and a practical workshop on using Kundalini Yoga to improve mental health outcomes.

The World Congress has been organized by the World Federation of Mental Health (WFMH), the largest global alliance of mental health professionals, national health associations, NGOs, policy experts, and other institutions at The Ashok, New Delhi from November 2-5, 2017. The World Congress is being organized in the SAARC region for the very first time.

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