A doctor spreads hope on the TED stage

Practicing the art of medicine is my passion.  Whether I am translating poignant patient cases into prose for public education, providing informative commentary on current mental health news to the media, or speaking to students in a lecture hall, the art of medicine takes many forms.

Recently, I was invited to present a TEDx Talk.  TEDx is an independently run event celebrating Technology, Entertainment and Design.  I chose to use my performance opportunity to creatively spread this idea: “Creating Hope for Mental Health.”

Storytelling was an integral part of my act.  Sharing personal experiences was pivotal to my point that mental illness is a master at disguise.  Few sufferers look like tattered souls — homeless, loitering on the streets, and incessantly talking to themselves.  In fact, one in four people will find themselves diagnosed with a major mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability — worldwide.  The WHO also reports that there is one death by suicide every forty seconds.  Just while you watch my TEDx Talk, 27 people will terminate their lives.

Contributing to these dismal statistics is the perpetuation of stigma associated with mental illness. But we as communities have the power to transform stigma into hope and acceptance.

Life is about living.  Surviving a major mental illness and achieving success in this world are not dichotomous.  Doctors and mental health providers encourage patients to maximize health-promoting factors like education, employment, relationships, and hobbies.  This combined with therapies, and modern medication can mean the difference between a tortured person and one who prospers.

There is recovery. There is healing.  And there is hope.

Helen M. Farrell is a psychiatrist who blogs at Frontpage Forensics and can be reacted on Twitter @HelenMFarrellMD.

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