The general understanding of human disease, its causes and manifestations, have become increasingly common knowledge over the past few decades. That expanding knowledge has contributed, in most instances, to an increased acceptance of those who suffer from all forms of illness. Yet, the stigma attached to some forms of disease has proved to be very difficult to overcome. Mental illness could arguably be listed as a prime example of this category. In spite of increasing awareness of mental ill-health and its impact on the society, this often “hidden disability” remains a difficult topic to engage with, perhaps due to the stigma that had been historically attached to it.
MegaReach has constantly strived to blow away this myth and bring mental ill-health into the fold of “normal disease”. So we were thrilled when students of one of the most prestigious specialised schools in the United States, the Styvesant High School in Manhattan, New York, approached us with a truly innovative project. The “Firefly Project” as they had dubbed it, envisaged a group of inspired, talented high school students developing messages on important topics in mental ill-health, in the form of cartoon stories. In addition to carrying important health messages, the process and the outcome of the project was designed to generate greater awareness and acceptance of mental ill-health among their peers. It was just the break we had been waiting for!
MegaReach is involved with the project through two main avenues, both designed to enhance the scientific rigour of the exercise, without hampering the enthusiasm and the creativity of this inspired set of high school students. Firstly, one of our senior medical students based in Plymouth, Jennifer Ansett, conducted a thorough review of literature on the content of health messages regarding mental illness and the media of delivery. This helped identify the areas that have been covered by similar initiatives globally and the lessons learned from such efforts. We also recruited a Consultant Paediatric Neuro-Psychiatrist to advise us on the content and the process leading to the production of the cartoons. The inclusion of this expert, Dr. Aleksandra Matakovic Manca, who practises in Milan, Italy, created a truly international team, who are currently engaged with notable enthusiasm in this most enterprising of projects. Currently, four teams of high school students are engaged with developing material covering Anorexia, Anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This project demonstrates several fundamental aspirations of MegaReach. It is inclusive, innovative, and undeniably founded on evidence. It also helps us develop the infrastructure to facilitate multinational projects. Please contact us if you have any ideas of your own to develop similar initiatives. We will work with you to realise your dreams. Let us please emphasise they need not always be as expansive in design or ambition. We would be equally thrilled to collaborate on a local project targeting an audience of one… as long as it will make a real difference to a real person!