On October 10 each year, all stakeholders working on mental health issues share progress about their initiatives and discuss what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual has the capacity to cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Persons with mental and psychosocial disabilities represent a significant proportion of the world’s population. An estimate of 1 in 4 people globally will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
Mental disabilities or illnesses tend to be prevalent in young people. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. In high-income countries, it is estimated that about 5% of the population has a serious mental illness. On a global level, it is estimated that approximately 20% of youth experience a mental health condition each year. As nearly one-fifth of the world’s population is young people aged 14-24 years, mental health is a canker to the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the future of economic growth.
In Africa, only 21 articles have alluded to depression, 7 to anxiety, 6 to suicide, 4 to addiction, 1 to psychosis, and none to schizophrenia, as of 2018. Also, 46% of countries in Africa have not implemented standalone mental health policies, according to WHO's 2014 Mental Health Atlas survey. This shows a blind eye turned to mental health issues and the weaknesses of the mental health services. Even those who receive mental health services, face a ratio of 1.4 mental health workers to 100,000 people.
As Africa’s population is expected to double over the next 3 decades, the labour market will be highly competitive, pressuring young people who might not fulfill their dreams to turn their frustrations to substance abuse and other social vices. Increased attention to mental health by governments, researchers, and journals is therefore essential.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, many routines have changed and the high levels of uncertainty breeds fear, worry, and stress among many. Many have been restricted to limit the spread of the virus - working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members and friends. Health workers, managers of health facilities, and other essential workers are at high risk and likely to transmit the virus to their family and friends. As such, it is important to increase awareness about mental health.
During times of increased social distancing, there is a possibility of increased stress and anxiety. Do not panic when you feel symptoms of the virus. Contact a health worker before you start any treatments for COVID-19. Also, eat well, sleep well, and have a balanced diet to avoid putting your physical health at risk.
Businesses could partner with health organisations to increase awareness about mental health and educate the populace about the services they provide. Increased education about mental-health conditions is likely to reduce the perceived stigma associated with seeking treatment and disclosing symptoms to professionals and other adults in positions to help.
Governments need to make mental health a priority through more defined policies and programs. In low and middle-income countries, additional research is needed to assess the effectiveness of interventions and identify gaps in mental health services. This will improve the targeting of people who need mental health services.
Let’s not neglect mental disabilities because they are invisible. To achieve the internationally agreed goals, we need to keep creating awareness about mental health to promote good health and wellbeing for all, reduce inequality and leave no one behind.