Lisa Wehr's Public Health Blog

Lisa is originally from Sigourney, Iowa. She attended Iowa State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Music in 2010. She is currently a first year Master’s of Public Health (MPH) student in community and behavioral health (CBH). Lisa works on the medicine-psychiatry unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Through this blog Lisa hopes to let people learn about the CBH department.

This student blog is unedited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the College of Public Health or the University of Iowa.

10 October 2012

World Mental Health Day

Those of you who know me know that mental health is a topic that I am passionate about, which is why I wanted to write a bit about it today.

What many people don't know is how my experience with mental health began and why it is so dear to my heart. My mother has struggled with severe depression for many years and was hospitalized numerous times throughout my childhood. That sparked my desire to work in mental health. Later, (my sophomore year in college) I got my first job working in psychiatry. I haven't left psych since then. I truly do love it. I love psych patients and I love the people who choose to work with them.

Oftentimes, I feel like mental health gets pushed to the back burner in public health, behind things like obesity. Actually, mental health gets pushed to the back through the entire health care system. But it shouldn't be. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in the world (NAMI).

I think some of this is due to our focus on prevention. How do you prevent a biological/genetic illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? The answer lies in changing our focus on prevention of the disease to prevention of the debilitation consequences of the disease. The questions then become:

  • How can we prevent those diagnosed with schizophrenia from spending their lives in mental institutions? 
  • How can we prevent the large number of comorbid physical/chronic diseases that come with mental illness?
So what can we as public health professionals do to help those with mental illness? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Increase access to mental health services, particularly in developing countries and rural areas
  • Increase the number and quality of community-based services to allow people with mental illness to be successful community members and not confined to an institution
  • Decrease the stigma associated with mental illness so more people are willing to receive treatment
  • Create programs to help people with mental illness live healthier lives to avoid chronic diseases

I'll leave you with some reading and videos on a variety of topics around mental health. Read/watch what looks interesting.

  • Ted Talk: Vikram Patel: Mental health for all by involving all

  • Ted Talk: Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness--from the inside


  1. People should be more aware of mental health.Nice post about mental health day!

  2. I love both of those Ted Talks! Elyn Saks is actually an associate professor where I work at the University of Southern California. The school is actually hosting a campaign this September to get people to blog about suicide prevention. your blog would be a great fit.

  3. Thank you for this...Patel's work is great and inspiring! I aspire to work in global mental public health (as soon as i'm finished my degree!) Take care.