Mental health is one of the hot topics in this post-modern world, where people are being inflicted with countless types of mental issues. The recent statistics from WHO reveal that more than 300 million people suffer from mental health issues around the world. This figure is disturbing by the fact that most of the under-developed and developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America do not have a systematic and accurate data about the mental health related issues. Most of the cases in such countries are not even reported, let alone registered and reported in the national database of these countries.
Statistical data regarding mental health:
According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in five Americans face diagnosable mental health issues and around 46% Americans meet the criteria of diagnosable mental health issues, some time in their lifetimes. It must also be noticed that the people suffering from mental health issues may be anyone from our immediate family, close friends, colleagues from work, our children’s teacher or a person from our neighbourhood. No one is exempt from this illness and anyone might be trapped in its clutches.
What constitutes mental health?
It is an important question, the answer to which is not definite or decisive owing to the changing tendencies, temperaments, and the circumstances of the world at large among many other factors. Mental health is more than just the absence of mental illnesses and problems. It encompasses our psychological, mental, emotional, behavioural and social health based on our tendencies, attitudes, temperaments and behaviours. It plays a vital role in determining our feelings and emotions, ability to cope with the stress and anxiety in our personal, professional and social capacities. Mental health is of crucial value at all stages of a person’s life starting from childhood, into the young age, adolescent years as well as through the old age.
Factors affecting the mental health:
Mental health is not an issue that is improved or declined in isolation. On the contrary, mental health is a social phenomenon and many factors shape and affect the mental health of a person regardless of nationality, race, age, income, or gender such as
- Family (parents, spouses, siblings)
- social circles
- socio-economic backgrounds (poverty)
- life experiences (trauma)
- biological factors (genes)
Modifiable and non-modifiable factors:
The mental health experts at WHO have investigated the factors that influence the mental health of individuals and categorised those factors into two categories of modifiable and non-modifiable factors.
Modifiable factors refer to the factors that can be modified and improved with the passage of time and the change in circumstances including
- living standards
- socio-economic conditions
Non-modifiable factors refer to the factors that cannot be changed definitely such as
- biological makeup
Common signs of deteriorating mental health:
Mental health experts have conducted countless researches, experiments and surveys to come up with the signs and signals which indicate that a person’s mental health is going downhill. The experts say that the early diagnosis of mental health issues increases the chances of recovery in the affected individuals. Some warning signs that the mental health of a person is declining are
- changes in sleep patterns
- loss of appetite
- irregular eating habits
- loss of energy
- suicidal tendency
- confused thinking
- loss of interest in life activities
- reckless behaviour (drugs, rash driving etc)
- violent behaviour
These are the most common warning signs and if a person goes through these habits or feelings, he must be given professional help in the form of therapy, consultation, medication etc depending upon his symptoms and the severity level of the illness.
Major types of mental health disorders:
There are following major types of mental health disorders.
- Bipolar disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
Barriers to treatment of mental health issues:
Psychologists and mental experts have rigorously studies the factors that prevent people from coming out about their mental health issue and they found the following barriers that hinder people from getting professional help and treatment to their psychological problems and that of their loved ones.
- Stigma and discrimination:
Stigma refers to the stereotypical attitudes and behaviours of people regarding certain issue. In this age of technological innovations, people are still fearful of the social stigma attached to the issue of mental health. The case is worse in the people from underdeveloped and poor geographical locations. According to the research by professor Miller, around two-third of people with diagnosable mental health issues do not receive any treatment due to social stigma because such people face the fear of discrimination at each societal level.
- Financial barriers:
The financial conditions of most of the people (around 60-70%, according to WHO) facing mental health issues do not let them afford the costly treatments and therapies.
- Shortage of mental health professionals
The lack or inadequate number of mental health service providers is one of the barriers that is acutely being faced by the underdeveloped countries.
- Lack of ample awareness and education
Unfortunately, even the people in this age and time are not aware of the severity of the mental problems. For instance, rural population of countries like India seldom recognize and accept the existence of mental issues let alone going actually for the treatment.
Mental health is a serious health issue, which must be tackled conscientiously by all the stakeholders including governments, international forums of mental health and individuals. The effort and capital must be invested into research work, awareness campaigns curbing the social stigma, efforts to make mental health treatment accessible, bids to identify new treatments and enhance the existing ones in order to save the 13% population (as reported by WHO in 2020) facing mental health problems in different parts of the world.