Massive opportunity to boost mental health launched today

17 July 2017

The University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre has launched a new online course focusing on boosting mental health in the community.

People who want to accentuate the positive side of their mental health may be drawn to a new online Positive Psychiatry and Mental Health course launching today through the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.

Course coordinator Dr Sonia Kumar from Brain and Mind Centre says that while mental illness is a common source of disability in our communities, there’s growing interest in how to promote positive mental health.

“Mental disorders are a major burden, yet most people affected don’t seek professional help. At the same time, there’s growing interest in positive mental health and wellbeing, which is why we are offering this new learning opportunity,” Dr Kumar says.

“This new course – offered as a MOOC or massive open online course – is unique in that it has a “positive psychiatry” focus and offers learning opportunities about positive mental health as well as managing mental illness and distress.”

‘Positive psychiatry’ is a relatively new term that was introduced by Professor Dilip Jeste, former president of the American Psychiatric Association with a 2016 book entitled ‘Positive Psychiatry: A Clinical Handbook’.

It incorporates ideas from the fields of health promotion and positive psychology, a well-known movement that has been championed by Martin Seligman over a couple of decades. But there is more of a focus on people with mental illness, as well as lifestyle factors and a broad range of self-help strategies.

Dr Kumar says people will learn practical strategies to enhance their mental health, such as stress management, exercise, positive relationships and creativity to empower themselves and others.

“Increasing mental health literacy can empower people to make healthy choices, reduce stigma, and enable them to be helpful in assisting others.”

“Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have the ability to democratise education and disseminate knowledge widely, thereby empowering the community and in particular those with mental disorders.

“The five-module course has the potential to reach large numbers of people in the international community and therefore improve mental health literacy in general, with the benefit of being able to dispel myths or misinformation about mental health and illness.”

Dr Kumar says mental health awareness is vital for improving the wellbeing of our communities. The course is relevant to families and carers of people with mental conditions, or those who may come into contact with people through their work, such as teachers, social service workers or people in non-government organisations.

“We believe mental health is a vital resource that is relevant to everyone, and that increasing mental health awareness will strengthen our communities.”

The Positive Psychiatry and Mental Health MOOC has been designed as part of a University of Sydney initiative to partner with Coursera. It comprises five modules and is designed to be completed in five weeks, with three to four hours of study time per week.

Elliott Richardson

Assistant Media Advisor (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)

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