What exactly do we mean by mental health?
Mental health is a state of well-being that enables people to cope with the stress of life, realize their abilities, learn and work well, and contribute to their community. It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
The WHO states that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. Peak mental health is not only about managing active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness. It also emphasizes that preserving and restoring mental health is crucial individually and at a community and society level.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. A person can experience poor mental health without being diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Mental health in Nigeria
Mental health is an integral part of health and well-being, and yet it's been neglected in this part of the world.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, 450 million people have a mental disorder and 25% of the population will suffer from mental illness at some time in their lives. Nigeria has Africa’s highest caseload of depression and ranks 15th in the world in the frequency of suicide, according to WHO.
Poor public education about mental health has allowed many misconceptions and low public acceptance of mental health patients to thrive.
In this part of the world, People often joke about mental health issues and believe it's tied to something spiritual. This alone has caused irreparable damage to some individuals and that's why the health thehealthcity is constantly bringing this to your attention Mental health is not a joke!
Neglect of mental health
Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of health globally. This was true before COVID-19 (coronavirus), but the pandemic has further worsened the status of mental health.
There are several reasons why mental health has been ignored. The first one is an associated stigma. The second is a perception of mental health disorders as a “luxury good”, as opposed to actual illnesses. Additional reasons include a fragmented and outdated service model. Some of these include the provision of mental health services mainly in psychiatric hospitals, a severe lack of preventive mental health services, lagging policy changes and also a shortage of human resources.
Determinants of Mental health
Throughout our lives, multiple individuals, and social and structural determinants may combine to protect or undermine our mental health and shift our position on the mental health continuum.
Individual psychological and biological factors such as emotional skills, substance use and genetics can make people more vulnerable to mental health problems.
Exposure to unfavourable social, economic, geopolitical and environmental circumstances also increases people’s risk of experiencing mental health conditions.
Risks can manifest themselves at all stages of life, but those that occur during developmentally sensitive periods, especially early childhood, are particularly detrimental. Protective factors similarly occur throughout our lives and serve to strengthen resilience.
Most people do not develop a mental health condition despite exposure to a risk factor and many people with no known risk factor still develop a mental health condition.
Mental health promotion and prevention
Promotion and prevention interventions work by identifying the individual, social and structural determinants of mental health, and then intervening to reduce risks, build resilience and establish supportive environments for mental health. The health sector can contribute significantly by introducing preventive efforts within health services.
Promoting child and adolescent mental health is another priority and can be achieved through policies and laws that promote and protect mental health. School-based social and emotional learning programmes are among the most effective promotion strategies.
Though society may pay no mind to mental health awareness and preventive treatment. Be intentionally kind to yourself and take care of your mental health. We're rooting for you!
Merriam Webster dictionary
Cc: Eseose Cecilia-Roxanne Animhiaga