UIC Barcelona holds a conference to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness

26/04/18
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This morning, the University Institute for Patient Care at UIC Barcelona held a conference entitled “Di_Capacitados: Mental Health Stigma and the Media”, in efforts to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. The event was open to the public and took place in the University’s Saló de Graus. The conference included a screening of the documentary “¿Y si te dijeran que puedes?” [What If They Said You Could?], an initiative created by Janssen, in partnership with the mental health association AVIFES, and directed by journalist Sebastián Álvaro, which tells the story of five people with schizophrenia who climbed the peak known as Naranjo de Bulnes and was nominated in six categories at last year’s Goya Awards.

The main aim of the conference “Di_Capacitados: Mental Health Stigma and the Media”, organised by the University Institute for Patient Care in cooperation with Janssen, was to raise awareness among reporters and society as a whole of the stigmatisation affecting people with mental illness and their family members. 

In recent years, thanks to ongoing advances in psychiatry, people with schizophrenia are more likely to lead preference-centred lives and be able to live life to the fullest. In this regard, media outlets play a key role in promoting the abilities of people with mental conditions, as they are able to lend visibility to the problem and solution. Thus, according to experts, emphasis must be placed on working in a manner that focuses on the patients’ life projects and on establishing a new paradigm in which care and social factors are brought into alignment in order to guide and help patients reach their goals. According to Boi Ruiz, director of the University Institute for Patient Care at UIC Barcelona, “It is important that people in society see the stigma surrounding people with mental illness and realise that these people are also capable of many things. We need to promote greater social affectivity towards them”. 

In addition, Ramon Frexes, director of Institutional Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility at Janssen, referred to the affective-effective model based on the principles of “care and cure”. “It is important to get closer to patients, as part of a relationship based on trust and empathy, in efforts to increase their well-being and deliver better health outcomes”, he explained. In this sense, some of the guidelines included in this model, such as the “social normalisation of the illness”, the “reciprocal doctor-patient relationship” and “training and communication with people”, are particularly important when treating patients with mental illness. 

In addition to the director of the documentary, Sebastián Álvaro, other conference participants included journalist Sílvia Cóppulo, who spoke about "Stigmatisation in health communication", and Itziar Ceballos, manager of the Biscay Association of Family Members and Persons with Mental Illness (AVIFES), who discussed the project’s overall objectives and how the project has been undertaken in a talk entitled “Dare to live". The event also featured Cristina Molina, director of the Government of Catalonia’s Master Plan for Mental Health and Addictions, who talked about government responsibility as regards contributions to the social integration of people with mental illness, among others. 

Documentary: "¿Y si te dijeran que puedes?"

The documentary “¿Y si te dijeran que puedes?” tells the story of five people with schizophrenia who climbed to the top of Naranjo de Bulnes (2,519 metros) in 2016, with the help of distinguished mountain climbers Juanjo San Sebastián and Juanito Oiarzabel. The film was directed by Sebastián Álvaro, director of the television show "Al filo de lo imposible" de TVE for 30 years. The documentary, shot with a view to fighting the stigma surrounding people with mental illness and their family members, was nominated for six Goya Awards in this year’s edition (Best Film, Best New Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Documentary).