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Mental health promotion as part of the humanisation of medicine

7 May 2024

Mental health, often underestimated in the context of overall wellbeing, is a key component of everyone's health. It is defined as the state in which an individual is able to use his or her own skills, cope with life's ordinary difficulties, work productively and contribute to the life of his or her community. Mental health affects how we think, perceive, feel and behave, how we cope with stress, make decisions and build relationships.

Mental stability

Understanding mental health requires the recognition that it is not simply the absence of mental illness or disorder, but a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Mental health is a dynamic state that can change depending on many factors, including life events, the environment in which we live, and genetics.

The impact of mental health on daily functioning is enormous. Positive mental health allows people to fully engage in life, form meaningful relationships, learn and adapt, and have productive and fulfilling working lives. On the other hand, mental health problems can lead to difficulties in many areas of life, including work, relationships and managing emotions and behaviour.

Promoting mental health in the community requires an integrated approach that includes education, awareness and access to support and treatment. Mental health education should start in early childhood and continue throughout life, including both information on how to cope with stress and emotions and knowledge of when and where to seek professional help.

A key aspect of mental health promotion is also to reduce the stigma of people experiencing mental health problems. Stigmatisation requires education and awareness-raising in the community to understand that mental health is as important as physical health and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

The importance of humanising medicine in the context of mental health

The humanisation of medicine, rooted in a deep understanding and respect for each patient as a unique individual, is central to the promotion of mental health. This approach, based on empathy, openness and individual treatment, contributes to a better understanding and support for people struggling with mental health problems, creating an environment where patients feel safe, respected and understood.

As part of the humanisation of medicine, doctors and other health professionals are encouraged to build deeper, more personal relationships with patients. As a result, patients are more willing to share their experiences, concerns and needs, which is essential for the effective addressing of mental health problems. Doctors who practise empathic listening can better understand the patient's life context, allowing for more targeted and effective intervention.

The humanistic approach in medicine recognises the importance of mental health for the overall wellbeing of the patient and emphasises that health care should include not only physical treatment, but also emotional and mental support. This translates into greater attention to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, and the promotion of mental health as an integral part of healthcare.

The humanisation of medicine is also influencing the way medical facilities design their services and spaces to make them more welcoming and less stressful for patients. Examples of this include creating more welcoming waiting rooms, providing access to on-site psychological support and organising workshops and educational programmes on mental health.

One of the key aspects of the humanisation of medicine is also the fight against the stigmatisation of mental disorders. By promoting open dialogue, educating the public and demystifying mental health problems, a humanistic approach contributes to reducing barriers to accessing treatment and support for those in need.

Finally, the humanisation of medicine promotes the integration of healthcare, bringing together different fields of medicine, psychology and social support to provide holistic patient care. This integrated approach is particularly important in the context of mental health, where problems often have complex causes and require the coordination of different forms of support.

Increasing public awareness

Mental health education and awareness-raising are the foundations in changing the way society perceives mental health problems and in reducing the stigmatisation of people struggling with such problems. A key element here is the provision of sound knowledge that demystifies mental disorders, emphasises their prevalence and shows that they are part of the broad spectrum of human health, just like physical illnesses.

Education in schools, universities, workplaces and the media can contribute to building sensitivity and understanding of mental health problems. By organising workshops, courses, social campaigns and events to promote mental health, it is possible to convey key information on how to recognise the first symptoms of disorders, where to seek help and how to support people in mental distress.

Educational health programmes that integrate mental health knowledge into general health programmes emphasise that mental health is an integral part of overall health and well-being. This approach contributes to normalising conversations about mental health and enables a better understanding of its complexity and the need to care for mental wellbeing.

In addition, developing educational programmes aimed at health professionals, including doctors, nurses and psychologists, regarding a humanistic approach to patients with mental health problems is essential in the drive to humanise medicine. Such an emphasis on educating health professionals contributes to a better understanding of patients' needs and building effective, trusting relationships with them.

As a result, mental health education and awareness has the potential not only to change perceptions of mental disorders, but also to create a more inclusive and supportive society where mental health is treated with the same care and attention as physical health.