With at least one in five adults now affected, mental illness has become a serious issue facing the African continent, as well as the rest of the world. With depression alone being more widespread than coronary heart disease, cancer and Aids combined, it is surprising that it is still a disease shrouded in silence.
Over the past three decades, monumental advances have been made in the field of psychiatric research. These advances are particularly visible in the area of treatment, for example: today, there are a number of treatment options for depression resulting in an impressive response rate of 70 -80%.
The bad news though, is that fear, stigma and lack of knowledge prevents two-thirds of those people suffering from clinical depression from seeking treatment.
Now in its fifth year, the Depression and Anxiety Support Group, has grown to a membership of over 12 000, with over 100 active regional support groups. While this non-profit organization is committed to educating the public about various mental illnesses and their treatments, they are heavily reliant on the media to assist in getting the information across to the general public.
In conjunction with the pharmaceutical company, SmithKline Beecham, the Depression and Anxiety Support Group has decided to sponsor a Media Award, to be presented annually, for outstanding achievements and excellence in media coverage of mental illness and psychiatric treatment, to ensure public awareness and understanding of mental illness and to combat these debilitating disorders and the stigma surrounding those who have them.
The trophy and prize money of R1000 will be presented for the first time in January 2001 for the year 2000, to the individual or group of individuals, using print or electronic media, responsible for either the article, series of articles, radio or television news, documentary, information or entertainment programming, which has made the most substantial or significant contribution to public understanding of mental illness and its treatment. The award will also take into consideration the extent to which the article or programme assisted in the fight against the stigma attached to mental illness.