It's time to talk about mental health
HEALTH & SCIENCEBy CLEOPA MAILU | Tue,Nov 15 2016 12:24:16 EATBy CLEOPA MAILU | Tue,Nov 15 2016 12:24:16 EAT
The 2016 World Mental Health Day theme ‘Dignity in mental health – psychological and mental health first aid for all’ provides an opportunity for us to focus on mental health needs and psychosocial support for individuals and families and how they can get the right help in crisis.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as the state of well-being in which individuals actualise life potentials and abilities, cope with stress of life, work productively and fruitfully make contributions to the community. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being.
It affects how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Mental illnesses are serious disorders that can affect your thinking, mood, and behaviour. There are many causes of mental disorders; gene, biological functioning and environmental factors. Your genes and family history may play a role. For example, your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, traumatic life events may also matter. Mental disorders are common, have preventable measures but treatments are available.
Stigma is a key problem for individuals with mental illness, as it may prevent them from seeking treatment and contribute to negative interactions with friends, peers, employers, landlords and law enforcement. Thus, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness may be a critical step in prevention and early intervention for mental disorders and may improve the quality of life of individuals with mental illness.
Part of the problem is that people don’t know the signs and symptoms of mental illness, which can result in years of needless suffering. But the bigger issue is that even when we do suspect that something is amiss, the stigma of mental illness often prevents us from telling our stories. This needs to change so that everyone can get the help they need to thrive.
But the roots of stigma run deep in our society, and they feed on fear and ignorance like social cultural beliefs, as mental disorders were often thought to reflect the unhappiness of the gods, or serve as proof that someone was possessed by demons.
Recent research indicates that Mental, Neurological and Substance (MNS) use disorders lifetime prevalence is 25 per cent, which translates to 1 in every 4 people will suffer from MNS at some point in their life time. It is estimated 20-40 per cent of patients seen in primary care have one or more mental disorders with projection that the burden of mental, neurological and substance use disorders will be 15 per cent of the total Disability Adjusted Life Years in 2020, higher than the 12 per cent in 2000. This enormous burden to the healthcare system and socio-economic development puts mental health into sharp focus and the time to act is now.
As a government, we want to play our part to revitalise mental health systems and services, while also changing the conversation about mental health for the better. In order to change our nation’s mindset around the mind, we need to start talking about mental health. The task before us now is fourfold. First, is mental health promotion and fitness. Second we must help people understand the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and substance-use disorders. Third, we must shatter the stigma that prevents people from seeking treatment. Fourth, we must create more effective prevention and treatment resources and embed them in the places where we live, work, worship and learn.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It can strike anyone at any time. Fortunately, recovery is possible. Treatment works, but only if a person can get it. As we continue to work to reform our health care system, we cannot overlook the importance of including mental health care in the equation.
One of my personal goals as Cabinet Secretary for Health is to work toward better integration of mental health services into the rest of medical care.
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