One particularly unfortunate aspect of mental illnesses is the stigma attached to them. Stigma is one of the one reason why many people do not get the treatment they deserve. There is tremendous need to advocate for people with mental illnesses, to raise public awareness, and to invest in prevention, treatment and recovery. 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 the Janssen Research & Development Neuroscience therapeutic area partnered with the Museum Dr. Guislain, a Belgian museum dedicated to the history of mental illness, to sponsor and present the 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 Health 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.
On October 9, the eve of World Mental Health Day, Robin Hammond, a native of New Zealand and a documentary photographer and filmmaker, will receive this award for his powerful photojournalism of mentally ill people in numerous African nations. His images, which are equal parts striking and unsettling, have been published in his photo book CONDEMNED – Mental Health in African Countries in Crisis. “Africans with mental illness in regions in crisis are resigned to the dark corners of churches, chained to rusted hospital beds, locked away to live behind the bars of filthy prisons,” said Hammond. “The goal of my work is to create awareness of and a voice for people with mental illness who have been forgotten by society, and to begin dialogue that will lead to change.”
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 Janssen’s founder, Dr. Paul Janssen, who discovered some of the most important treatments for mental illness. We continue to work to change individual and public perceptions of people with mental illness, so that society understands that the causes of mental illnesses are biologically based.
We are making significant progress in understanding the complex mechanisms of the brain and we strive to find the causes and cures of brain disorders. At the same time, the fight against mental health stigma must remain a priority. Individuals like Robin Hammond, whose work raises attention to the plight of mentally ill people in African countries in crisis, should be applauded for making visible the suffering of individuals whom society has done their best to hide and ignore.
To learn more about the 2014 Dr. Guislain “Breaking the Chains of Stigma” Award, click here.
Greg Panico is therapeutic area communications leader, Neuroscience, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a Johnson & Johnson company. He studied journalism and philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, and has spent his career developing health education programs for nonprofit organizations and health care companies.