On this World Mental Health Day, we’d like to spotlight some of the important work being done for promoting good mental health among people with facial differences.
Psychological well-being has long been cited by health professionals looking to justify medical interventions in the face. Even Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545–1599), defending his rhinoplasty ideas from critics in De curtorum chirurgia per insitionem (‘On the surgery of mutilations through grafting’, Venice: 1597), wrote that improving the appearance of the patient’s nose would provide him or her with “the greatest benefits of all: a tranquil mind and a pleasing appearance”.
An important difference in the advocacy work done by groups such as Changing Faces and Facial Palsy UK, however, is the stressing of the need and capacity for individuals with facial differences to enjoy excellent mental health without the need for ‘normalising’ interventions. Both organisations offer support to individuals and their families, and advocate for wider understanding and support within the general community. They also provide specific training for mental health professionals to help them support patients with facial disfigurements.
Facial expression is often thought to be a key indicator of how someone is feeling, and is one of the major impacts of disorders like Moebius syndrome, which restricts an individual’s facial movement. So, on Friday’s World Smile Day, Facial Palsy UK tweeted a reminder that the expression of happiness doesn’t always come solely in the form of a physical facial smile!