HomeHealthMental health deserves higher priority

Mental health deserves higher priority

MENTAL health refers to a person’s rational, behavioural and emotional well-being. It concerns how we think, feel and behave and how this affects our daily living, relationships and physical health.

We are perhaps more inclined to think about mental ill health than mental health. Often we stigmatise those with mental health problems. Yet the line between mental health and mental ill-health may sometimes be thin.

Most people suffer from stress, depression and anxiety. It is when such things disrupt your daily lives or result in abnormal or antisocial behaviour that we talk of mental illness.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health. This can be done by achieving a balance between life activities, responsibilities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

World Mental Health Day was on October 10. The theme of the day announced by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) this year was ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’.

WFMH says the theme was chosen in the light of the polarisation that exists in the world, with the wealthy becoming wealthier and the number of people living in poverty still far too high. Inequalities, the federation said, have an impact on people’s mental health.

According to the WFMH, access to mental health services remains unequal with between 75 to  95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle income countries unable to access mental health services at all, while access in high income countries is not much better.

Investment in mental health tends to be low proportionate to overall health budgets, the WFMH says.

A lot of people with a mental illness do not receive the treatment they are entitled to and deserve, it says. They also continue to experience stigma and discrimination together with their families and carers.

The gap between people who have resources and those without has grown wider and the lack of care for people with a mental health problem is also increasing, the federation says.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the effects of inequality on health outcomes.No nation, however rich, was fully prepared for this.

Covid-19 has and will continue to affect people of all ages in many ways through infection and illness, sometimes resulting in death and bereavement for surviving family members.

Its economic impact on those faced with job losses and continued job insecurity can have a negative effect on their mental health. Physical distancing can lead to social isolation, which may give rise to mental health problems.

Research by the WFMH has also shown that there is often a deficiency in the quality of care provided to people with a mental health problem.

In some cases, it can take up to 15 years before medical, social and psychological treatments for mental illness that have been shown to work in good quality research studies are delivered to the patients that need them for everyday living, it says.

We need to take care of our own mental health and support those who have mental health problems, rather than stigmatising them.

Taking care of your mental health

Lifestyle changes can help improve mental health. While they may not be sufficient on their own to enable those with mental health issues to overcome them, other treatment options may be more effective if combined with adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a good social life, keeping physically healthy, having enough sleep and adopting a positive outlook on life are all beneficial for your mental health.

Exercise is important for both physical and mental health. It not only helps control your weight and keep you physically healthy but benefits your mental health as well.

Spending time outdoors can improve your mood. Walking instead of driving, whenever there is the opportunity, taking the dog for a walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator and going for a bike ride or having a swim are all good forms of exercise.

Your diet can affect your mental health because what you eat affects your physical health, which in turn affects your mental health.

Excessive amounts of processed foods, sweets and foods with a low nutrient value are not good for your physical or mental health. Lean protein, whole grains and fibre, as well as fruit and vegetables are much better for your health.

Physical health problems can have a negative effect on your mental health. Your mind and body work together and affect each other. Seek medical assistance for health problems early to avoid further complications.

Getting sufficient sleep is also important. Without it, you can find yourself not only tired but having difficulty thinking properly and managing stressful situations. Mental health experts recommend about seven or eight hours sleep or even nine hours, depending on the individual.

You need to establish a regular sleep pattern. Going to bed and getting up at around the same time every day helps your body regulate its sleeping and waking cycle.

Maintaining a good social life and having healthy relationships with other people is good for our mental health. Avoid staying away from the outside world as this can result in depression and a feeling of loneliness. Balancing social life with work also helps break the monotony of everyday routines.

It is also important to have time to yourself for relaxation and contemplating the important things in life and your life in particular. Prayer and meditation can help you cope better with life and its struggles.

Taking a relaxing bath or enjoying a good book or a television programme or movie that you enjoy are also good ways of relaxing and contribute positively to mental health.

While overcoming mental health problems often requires some form of therapy and even, in extreme cases, medication, adopting a healthy lifestyle can do a great deal to contribute to mental health and contribute to overcoming mental illnesses.

Think positively. Negativity, constant complaining and criticism can trigger unhappiness. If you can let go of any anger you feel, be quick to forgive and try to understand other people’s points of view and where they are coming from, this should eliminate many causes of stress and be good for your mental health.

Remember too that other people’s isolation is not good for their mental health, so keep in touch with them, be willing to listen to them and show them you care. While Covid-19 precautions may limit face-to-face conversations and physical contact, you can still keep in contact via the phone and social media.

  • The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — igo@cimas.co.zw or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663.

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