“Why We Must Care About Mental Illness”

2018-03-07 Campus Life

The Global Burden of Diseases Study predicts that by 2030, the worldwide cost of care for mental illness will increase to more than 6 trillion US dollars.

In addition to the human and social suffering, the economic burden of mental illness has become an irrefutable reality; this is one of the reasons why we must care about mental disorder. But there are two more compelling reasons why we should care. First, mental illness is one of the most common ailments that will directly or indirectly impact the lives of most of the world’s population during their lifetime. The other reason is that as long as our society has the will, we can prevent, treat, and manage mental disorders. Once we address the issues associated with the mental illness, we will do more than improving the quality of life; we can also look forward to economic growth.

Special Lecture: ‘Global Burden of Mental Illness: Why We Should Care About Brain Disorders,’ by Professor Sohee Park of Vanderbilt University
On February 8th, in the 2nd floor Main Conference Room of the University Administration Building, a special lecture was delivered by Vanderbilt University Professor Sohee Park, on the topic of ‘Global Burden of Mental Illness: Why We Should Care About Brain Disorders.’ Professor Park reviewed the commonly known, and the not-so-well-known, facts about neuropsychiatric disorders, examined the social impact of mental disorders, and introduced recent innovations in treatment. Professor Park is a Kyung Hee International Scholar (IS), as well as a fellow of American Psychological Association (APA) and the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology (CINP).

Professor Park began by defining the concept of mental disorder, as a diseased mental state that affects one’s thinking, emotion, and behavior, and provided examples of such illnesses, including depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and drug abuse. She clarified that because “the state of mental illness exists on a continuum between being ‘healthy’ and ‘diseased,’ it cannot be simply labelled as either black or white.” She added that schizophrenia can manifest itself in various forms, citing some well-known schizophrenics, such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Carl Jung, demonstrating a possible correlation between extraordinary human potential and mental illness.

“Stigma attached to mental disorders can be changed through proper education”
For instance, the inter-relationship between lunacy and creativity has attracted interest for thousands of years. A predominant population of artists, musicians, scientists, writers, and poets were afflicted with mental illness. Professor Park claimed that “research must move beyond the stories of famous personalities, and zero in on studying the link between creativity and lunacy.” She stated that “various forms of mental disorder pose personal and social challenges; on the other hand, they contribute positively to creativity. However, treatment is absolutely necessary.”

So, what are the solutions for mental illness? Professor Park offered treatment approaches in pharmacology, brain stimulation, and cognitive training. But she pointed out that the most serious problem with the mental disorder patients is their failure to achieve full integration into society even after being treated. Professor Park assessed said, “If a fully recovered mental patient fails to successfully assimilate back into society and to form social networks, and falls into loneliness, it frequently leads to relapse.”

“Mental disorders are treatable. When left unmanaged, we risk losing human potential,” Professor Park stated, adding that “the stigmatized perception attached to mental disorder can be changed through proper education.” She also emphasized that “the entire society must pay attention and accept mental illness as a societal issue.”

International Scholar (IS) lecture series is a Kyung Hee University sponsored program that invites globally recognized scholars in search for a greater future for humankind. Throughout the year, special lectures offer scholars, experts, and practitioners from Korea and abroad with an opportunity to speak on their perspective regarding our society and human civilization, as well as their vision of a peaceful future.

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