Gerald Pail, MD
For an employee of a leading psychopharmacological enterprise, the motivation for initiating and funding a project like Psychic Realities is to no small extent rooted in the perception of psychopathological concepts in everyday media. The misuse of entities such as schizophrenia in describing persons or situations continues to remain on a level of discrimination and stigmatization that, for example, would elicit outrage if it occurred in the context of ethnicity. Art reaches out to people via emotions that go beyond linguistic and cultural barriers and has proven itself in its function as a dependable seismograph in a rapidly changing society.
In Europe approximately 27% of the population suffers at least once during life from a mental disorder, most frequently involving depression or anxiety. The five most important afflictions – affective disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, schizophrenia and dementia – entail costs amounting to 295 billion euros. In Austria the sum is approximately seven billion euros, with more than 30% resulting from sick leaves and ca. 3% from medication costs. With regard to depressive patients, only one third are properly diagnosed, and fewer than 10% are treated using an adequate therapy. Depression is the main cause of suicide, which in Europe leads to 58,000 deaths, thus exceeding the death rate for automobile accidents, HIV and homicides.
Destigmatization in the sense of an active effort to inform the population and persevering resistance to discrimination in every social context are the pillars of the Green Book on Improving Mental Health published by the European Commission, and they are crucial in opening access to adequate therapeutic options. Doubtlessly, the key to therapeutic success lies in the coherence of psychopharmacologic, psychotherapeutic and sociotherapeutic measures and also of further therapeutic variables specific to individual disorders.
At the center of the project are ten positions by artists from three continents who present their imaginations and narrations of individuals and their psychical reality. This individual viewpoint should never be lost in all discussions in a social context, and here it should serve as a reminder that the question of mental health and illness can in the end only be answered individually.
The medium of photography, which like no other displays a history between reality and artificiality, between art and non-art, challenges us to look those people in the eye from whom we all too often turn away.
- Green Book (2005) - Improving the mental health of the population: Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union / European Commission
- Andlin-Sobocki, Jonsson, Wittchen, Olesen 2005 / Cost of disorders of the brain in Europe / European Journal of Neurology 12 [Suppl. 1]: 1–27
- Wancata et al 2007 / Die Kosten von Gehirnerkrankungen in Österreich im Jahr 2004 (The cost of cerebral diseases in Austria during the year 2004) / Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 119/3–4: 91–98