By Husseini K. Manji, MD, Global Head, Neuroscience Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Today is World Mental Health Day, a day that according to the World Health Organization “raises public awareness about mental health issues...promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.” To me, it also is a reminder of the work that still must be done. At Janssen, we believe in the power of recovery from mental illness, and we know that recovery is possible only with appropriate treatment. To spark the process of recovery there has to be public recognition that brain disorders are treatable and there must be no shame and no stigma attached.
That is why Janssen Research & Development partnered with Museum Dr. Guislain, a Belgian mental health museum earlier this year, to sponsor and present the inaugural Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award. The Award honors the legacy of Dr. Joseph Guislain (1797-1860), the first Belgian psychiatrist to provide scientifically-based treatment for patients with mental illness, and a staunch patient advocate. The award is an important component of the Janssen and Johnson & Johnson Healthy Minds initiative, which aims to encourage collaboration among biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and public-sector partners to accelerate the discovery of new therapeutic solutions for diseases and disorders of the brain, as well as support the mental health community and various advocacy organizations and projects.
Today, I was part of the inaugural Dr. Guislain Award ceremony in which Bagus Utomo, an Indonesian man, was presented with the award for his tireless work to provide resources for and fight stigma associated with schizophrenia through his organization Komunitas Peduli Skizofrenia Indonesia (Indonesia Community Care for Schizophrenia), or KPSI. His work and comments during the ceremony are especially inspiring to me because he emphasized the important role technology and innovation play in ending stigma. Please read the press release to find out more about Mr. Utomo’s work.
At Janssen, we have a history of advocating for, and a passionate commitment to, mental health care and people living with brain disorders. Our work continues the legacy of our founder, Dr. Paul Janssen, who discovered some of the most important treatments for mental illness. We must continue to work together to change individual and public perceptions of people with mental illness, so that society understands the causes of mental illnesses are biologically based. This is easier said than done, as stigma and prejudice around mental illness are pervasive and ingrained in cultures around the world.
As a neuroscientist, I know that we are making significant progress in understanding the complex mechanisms of the brain and that we will find the causes and cures of brain disorder in the years ahead. At the same time, the fight against mental health stigma must remain a priority. I am heartened that progress is being made in advocacy because of the courage and diligent work of people like Bagus Utomo. He used his intelligence, energy and ingenuity to do the grass-roots work needed to begin changing attitudes about stigma in Indonesia. His refusal to accept the status quo is a great example for other advocates, as well as industry, and he should be applauded.
To learn more about the inaugural Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award, please visit the Award website at: http://www.drguislainaward.org/.