In keeping with the recommendations of the WHO and the WPA, the ETHICS Foundation under the direction of Dr Maria Vassiliadou, started to organise a series of initiatives for the implementation of the above targets.

One of these initiatives, a three-semester educational programme implemented at the University of Athens and designed to prepare the trainees to become collaborators and subsequently trainers in their own professional setting, serves to illustrate the ETHICS Foundation’s work.

The programme and its implementation were designated by the WHO in 2004 as a paradigm of successful educational innovation to be recommended internationally.

This Programme, “Training for Trainers”, had the key objectives of:

I.  The sensitisation on issues of mental health of not only primary care physicians and other health professionals but also of societal agents in order to help these recipients modify and advance their knowledge, dexterities and attitudes

II.  The creation of new educational nuclei in each participant’s professional setting that could contribute through a “radiation” effect to the advancement of mental health of the population at large.

Not only psychiatrists but also physicians of other specialties who deal with psychiatric patients as well as primary care professionals – such as nurses, psychologists, social workers – must receive training so as to be able:

  • To recognise a psychiatric disorder as early as possible
  • To avoid increasing therapeutic cost by unnecessary referrals of patient from one service to the other
  • To identify which patient, when and how must be referred to the psychiatric services
  • To avoid stigmatising the psychiatric patient by providing inadequate care and by negative labeling of the patient as “problematic”, “disturbing”, “hysterical” etc
  • To promote de-stigmatisation and protect the personality of the patient and his legal rights
  • To facilitate the autonomous (or semi-autonomous) living of the patients in the community
  • To promote rehabilitation of these patients through which their socio-economic re-integration can be achieved

Accordingly the guiding principle of the programme was to train trainers in basic issues of psychiatric prevention and mental health promotion with special emphasis on positive mental health. Participants were also encouraged to engage in research, sensitise themselves to crucial issues of mental health related to their professional field and encourage interaction between various professional groups.

A University Degree was a pre-condition of admission to the programme and a committee from Athens University interviewed each candidate. 120 participamts were selected, drawn the following groups:

Health professionals

  • Physicians (GPs, specialists in Internal Medicine, hospital doctors)
  • Nurses
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers

Community agents

  • Educators
  • Priests
  • Army Officers
  • Police Officers
  • Jurists (judges, public prosecutors)
  • Diplomats
  • Journalists and other Mass Media professionals

Teaching materials were produced to reflect the specific profile and needs of the participants.

The programme organiser was in contact with the Archbishop of Greece, the General Director of the Armed Forces, the Director of the Police, the Chairman of the High Court, the Director of the Diplomatic Service, the President of the Association of General Practitioners, the President of the Union of Journalists and other top community agents and asked each of them to suggest five representatives from each professional group to take part in the programme.

Mental health promotion, by definition, involves the protection of human personality in all its dimensions. Training of non-psychiatric physicians and other health professionals and societal agents with particular reference to the need for biological, psychological, social and ethical management of the patient as an individual human being was integral to the design of the programme from the start.

Teaching staff were Members of the Academic Department of Psychiatry of Athens University, Sir David Goldberg, Prof. André Tylee and Prof. Graham Thornicroft from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and members of the Hellenic Psychiatric Association and the Society of Preventive Psychiatry with Academic credentials.

The programme consisted of a theoretical and a practical component. The theoretical component consisted of Part I (one semester) and Part II (two semesters). The practical component consisted of sessions of small groups of representatives of each profession to discuss mental health issues related to their own particular profession.

Attendance was excellent with much enthusiastic and valuable feed-back from the audience. Interaction between the professional groups participating in the programme increased.