Don’t shy away from seeking help for mental health

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021 00:00 |
A mental health patient chained to a tree. Photo/COURTESY

Jeldah Nyamache

Mental wellbeing is one of the most neglected areas of human health, in as much as it is said that there is no health without mental health. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one person dies every 40 seconds by committing suicide.

One in 10 people in the world are living with a mental disorder such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety and many more.

Relative to these figures, only a handful of people take it upon themselves to pro-actively seek professional help for their mental health.

WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2013, recognises the essential role of mental health in achieving health for all people.

The plan includes four major objectives of more effective leadership and governance for mental health, the provision of comprehensive, integrated mental health and social care services in community-based settings, the implementation of strategies for promotion and prevention and strengthened information systems, evidence and research.

While a lack of adequate mental health professionals and services contributes to this situation, evidence shows that people actually avoid seeking medical assistance due to a number of reasons. 

Key among them is because of fear of judgment, doubt, pride, fear and misinformation.

They don’t want to be disgraced, criticised or stigmatised. Others have developed the belief that if they seek mental help, it means they are crazy, which is not true.

Mental health illnesses just like any other diseases do not discriminate and can affect anyone anywhere.

Our different ways and realities make us unique and nothing should stop anyone from getting help. 

Mental health status has been linked to family genetics, biological factors, environmental and life experiences, therefore, no one should ever feel ashamed to seek help when they need to. 

We must realise that mental health is a component of living a healthy and balanced life. It includes emotional, social and psychological factors that affect how we feel, think, and act. 

Our mental health dictates how we make choices, how we relate to those around us and how we handle stress. 

Good mental health should be cultivated from childhood and nurtured through adulthood, as part of a wholesome life including physical and emotional health.

Psychotherapy provides a safe space to freely talk about how one is feeling and thinking without being judged.

While friends and family are all valuable for overall wellness, mental health experts are important in addressing the mental health challenges by helping you keep a clear mind and manage any stress, anxiety, phobia and other problems you face.

They can help you get the most out of life and keep you free from symptoms of depression and other mental health problems. 

A healthy mental status also positively impacts ones physical health by improving the immune system, regulating sleeping habits, and lowering pain levels.

On the flipside, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some mental conditions.

People should be informed about the importance of seeking mental health services to address this growing health concern.

Avoiding counseling can only lead to mental health deteriorating further. It is encouraging that mental health awareness is increasingly taking root in our society and related services are expanding to allow more access to the vital care.

There is however more that needs to be done especially in fighting the stigma and misinformation associated with mental health challenges. 

The constant message that should be out there is that mental health challenges are normal and there is nothing to fear nor to be ashamed about it. Mental health services are life-saving and should be easily accessible to all.

With many people having been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health, mental health awareness messages should be clear.

It is also important that mental health services are expanded to allow for more access to the vital services. 

—The writer is a family medical practitioner in Kenya —[email protected]

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