Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Laos - Dr. Chantharavady Choulamany Wins 5th Annual Dr. Guislain "Breaking the Chains of Stigma" Award for Her Work to Address Mental Health Needs in Laos

Honor Celebrates Exceptional Contributions Made in the Field of Mental Health Advocacy and Awareness

NEW YORK, Oct. 10, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen Research & Development, LLC ("Janssen") named Chantharavady Choulamany, M.D., the 2016 recipient of the Dr. Guislain "Breaking the Chains of Stigma" Award. 

The award recognizes Laotian psychiatrist, Dr. Choulamany, for her impact on the quality of life for individuals who are living with mental illness. Dr. Choulamany will be recognized for her contributions at a special award event later today in New York.  As only one of two qualified psychiatrists in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), a country of more than 6 million people. Dr. Choulamany has dedicated her life to increasing access to mental health services and developing education programs to treat and improve understanding of mental illness.

Dr. Choulamany has worked to address mental health issues and needs in her country with a uniquely successful approach. She works with all levels of government, advocating for better treatment services, more funding and pushing for more trained health professionals. Several of the 17 district and 7 provincial hospitals have now set up mental health teams, comprising of a doctor and two nurses, who have participated in a four-day mental health training program from BasicNeeds. To further overcome the shortage of trained health workers, Dr. Choulamany has enlisted the help of cultural groups to raise awareness of mental illness and to fight stigma. She has also provided training to Buddhist monks to help care for people with mental illness through counseling and prayer. More than 8,000 patients and family members have already benefited directly from Dr. Choulamany's work.  

"Dr. Choulamany's work is changing the way an entire country thinks about and responds to mental illness. Her work is transforming the conversation about mental illness while increasing the level of understanding that individuals possess about this subject," said Brother René Stockman, General Director of the Dr. Guislain Museum. "Our organization is pleased to provide this award in honor of her unique contributions."

Each year, the Dr. Guislain Award receives nominations from mental health professionals across the globe. Dr. Choulamany was selected from more than 55 nominees by a jury of international mental health advocates and renowned authorities in the field.

In addition to her current role as Program Manager in her country for BasicNeeds, an international, non-governmental, mental-health focused organization, Dr. Choulamany, with strong government support, oversees a number of national and local initiatives, all with the goal of treating mental illness and reducing the stigma associated with it. Dr. Choulamany was one of the co-authors of the 2002 report commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) that analyzed the mental health issues in Lao PDR and more recently has been involved in drafting "A National Strategy for Mental Health by 2020" in conjunction with the WHO.

"My work has been challenging, yet rewarding. When you are able to assist one person in living a happier, fuller life, you are helping them, their family and their entire community," said Dr. Choulamany. "There is still much work to be done, but the progress that we have made through education and making treatment more accessible is something in which I take great pride."

Earlier in her career, Dr. Choulamany worked at the University of Medicine in Vientiane, Lao PDR, then the Mahosot Hospital, under the Ministry of Health. While at the University of Medicine, Dr. Choulamany taught psychiatry and mental health, as well as developed French language e-learning information in general psychiatry under the Francophone Cooperation Framework for medical students in 2008.

"Dr. Choulamany's efforts demonstrate how one individual can make a difference in raising awareness of mental health issues and fighting stigma," said Husseini K. Manji, MD, Global Therapeutic Area Head for Neuroscience, Janssen Research & Development, LLC. "Each year, Janssen seeks to recognize deserving individuals for their work to reduce mental health stigma in communities around the world. Dr. Choulamany's work is especially commendable and has an impact on countless lives throughout her country."

The Dr. Guislain "Breaking the Chains of Stigma" Award was created in 2011 to honor the legacy of Dr. Joseph Guislain (1797-1860), the first Belgian psychiatrist to provide scientifically based treatment for patients with mental illness and a staunch patient advocate. Both the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen share a rich heritage and long-standing involvement in the field of mental illness research, treatment and education. For nearly 30 years, the Museum has dedicated itself to educate the public and rectify the misunderstandings and prejudice associated with treatment for mental illness.

The Dr. Guislain Award program is a joint project of the Dr. Guislain Museum and Janssen Research & Development, LLC. Janssen provides financial and in-kind support for the program.  Dr. Choulamany will receive a $50,000 prize that must be used toward further work to reduce societal stigma about mental health and disorders of the brain.

Janssen's sponsorship of this award reflects its more than 50-year commitment to help find solutions for patients with mental illness. An important component of the Healthy Minds initiative of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, the award aims to encourage collaboration among biotechnology, pharmaceutical and public-sector partners to accelerate the discovery of new therapeutic solutions for diseases and disorders of the brain, as well as support the mental health community and various advocacy organizations and projects.

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