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What Do You Know About Mental Health?

A person is said to be in good mental health if they live up to their full potential, handle the stresses of daily life, perform well at work, and give back to their community.

This implies that mental health is not just about mental illness and disabilities. Mental health is an essential aspect of health. In actuality, health is a condition of physical, mental, and social well-being and not only the absence of disease or disability, as stated in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) constitution.

Therefore, before one can state that they are healthy, they must ensure that they are not just referring to the absence of disease or sickness. Still, they are in complete physical, mental, and social well-being.

Mental health comprises three aspects which are emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Emotional well-being refers to happiness, interest in life, and satisfaction. Psychological well-being refers to being okay with most aspects of one’s personality, managing everyday responsibilities, and relating well with others. Social well-being refers to contributing to society, feeling like a member of a community, etc.

Many factors have been cited as issues that can affect mental health.

They include genes, family crises and life experiences, physical health problems, substance abuse, discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, violence, unemployment, loneliness and isolation, grief and loss, financial worries and poverty, long-term stress, etc.

When a person is not mentally healthy, such a person is said to have a mental disorder or illness. According to the WHO, different types of mental disorders have other presentations.

These mental illnesses/disorders may be occasional or chronic. Common mental disorders are anxiety disorders (panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias), depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, etc.

The role of mental health in the growth and development of the socio-economic aspect of society can never be over-emphasized. This is so given that mental health affects the quality of life as it encompasses what and how we think, feel, act, and react. Therefore, mental health must be promoted and protected by creating an environment supporting mental health. According to WHO, an environment that respects and protects fundamental civil, political, socio-economic, and cultural rights are essential to mental health.

In promoting mental health, there is a need to involve every other sector; otherwise, maintaining mental health will be difficult. As highlighted by WHO, specific ways to promote mental health include poverty reduction and social protection for the poor, early childhood intervention, stress prevention programs, violence prevention programs, mental health promotional activities in schools, improving access to quality education, socio-economic empowerment of women, etc.

Although it has been highlighted that mental health is an essential aspect of health, it has been neglected in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s existing Mental Health Policy document was formulated in 1991, and since then, it has not been reviewed or revised. Although a list of essential medicines for treating mental health problems exists, they are not always available.

Furthermore, a meager percentage of government expenditures is assigned to mental health. In a survey conducted in 2019 by a collaboration between the Africa Polling Institute (API) and EpiAfric, an estimated 20% to 30% of the Nigerian population is believed to suffer from mental disorders.

This finding corroborates the report of the assessment of the mental health system in Nigeria using the World Health Organization-Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS) conducted in 2006 that claims that about 20 million Nigerians have mental illness and a good number of them don’t receive the mental health care that they need. According to this survey, drug abuse is Nigeria’s most common cause of mental health disorders.

The survey also discovered that the level of awareness of the Nigerian public on mental health issues is considerably low because such understanding has to do with open signs of a mental health problem rather than covert signs. In contrast, the level of misconceptions about it is high. The neglect of mental health is apparent in the lack of resources, facilities, and qualified personnel in the protection of mental health and treatment of mental health disorders, which invariably denies those in need of mental health care such services.

In conclusion, much needs to be done in the area of mental health in Nigeria. This is in addition to the general work required in the health sector. An updated and effective legal framework on mental health is now indispensable. Mental health needs to be taken seriously.

Resources allocated to mental health care. Awareness and sensitization about mental health are carried out. The specific ways which have been highlighted by WHO are highly recommended. Similarly, individuals are advised to maintain positive mental health by connecting with others, developing coping skills, helping others, getting enough sleep, and asking for professional help.

We at Nnaedozie Thomas Foundation are committed to improving quality of life, including mental health.
So, protect your mental health!

[1] Mental Health: Strengthen our response, available at https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response assessed on 28/09/2021.

[2] World Health Organization, Constitution available at https://www.who.int/about/governance/constitution assessed on 28/09/2021.

[3] World psychiatry, Towards a new definition of mental health, available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471980/ assessed on 28/09/2021.

[4] Factors that can affect mental health, available at https://morefeetontheground.ca/mental-health/factors-that-can-affect-mental-health/ assessed on 28/09/2021.

[5] Mental disorders, available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders assessed on 28/09/21.

[6] Mental disorders, available at https://medlineplus.gov/mentaldisorders.html assessed on 28/09/2021.

[7] Mental Health: Strengthen our response, available at https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response assessed on 28/09/2021.

[8] https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/nigeria_who_aims_report.pdf assessed on 28/09/2021.

[9] https://nigeriahealthwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/bsk-pdf-manager/2020/01/MENTAL-HEALTH-IN-NIGERIA-SURVEY-Conducted-by-Africa-Polling-Institute-and-EpiAFRIC-January-2020-REPORT.pdf assessed on 28/09/2021.

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