The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises World Mental Health Day on October 10 every year. The theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day set by the World Federation for Mental Health is
Make Mental Health and wellbeing for all a global priority.
The World Mental Health Day is an International day for global mental health education awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
The overall objective of the World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilise efforts in support of mental health. The day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for everyone worldwide. The green ribbon is the international symbol of mental health awareness.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral and emotional wellbeing. It is about how people think, feel and behave. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorder or disabilities”. Mental Health is a state of wellbeing that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well and contribute to their community. Mental health affects daily living, relationships and physical health. At the same time, factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections and physical factors can contribute to mental health.
The WHO fact sheet states the following key facts:
- 1 in every 8 people in the world live with a mental disorder
- Mental disorders involve significant disturbances in thinking, emotional regulation or behaviour
- There are many different types of mental disorders
- Effective prevention and treatment options exist
- Most people do not have access to effective care.
WHAT IS A MENTAL DISORDER?
A mental disorder is characterised by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation or behaviour. It is usually associated with distress or impairments in important areas of functioning. Mental disorders are also referred to as mental health conditions which is a broader term including mental disorders, psychosocial disabilities and other mental states with significant distress, impairment of functioning or risk of self-harm. The WHO Fact sheet outlines some mental disorders as described by the International Classification of Diseases (CD-11).
TYPES OF MENTAL DISORDERS
There are many types of mental disorders. Five of them are discussed below.
- Anxiety Disorders Many people around the world including children and adolescents are living with one anxiety disorder or the other. Anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive worry and related behavioral disturbances. Symptoms are severe enough to result in significant distress, or significant impairment of functioning.
Kinds of anxiety disorders include
(a) Generalised Anxiety– characterised by excessive worry.
(b) Panic Disorder – characterised by panic attacks.
(c) Social Anxiety disorder – characterised by excessive fear and worry in social situations.
(d) Separation Anxiety – characterised by excessive fear or anxiety about separation from individuals with whom a person has deep emotional bond.
- Depression. This is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. A depressed person experiences (a) a depressed mood such as feeling sad, irritable,
(b) empty, or a loss of pleasure or interest in activities for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks. (c) other symptoms include poor concentration, feelings of excessive guilt or low self-worth, hopelessness about the future, thoughts about dying or suicide, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite or weight and feeling especially tired or low in energy. People with depression are at increased risk for suicide.
- Bi-Polar Disorder – Individuals with bipolar disorder experience alternating depressive episode with periods of manic symptoms. During depressive episodes, the person experiences depressed mood (feeling sad, irritable, empty) or a loss of pleasure or interest in activities for most of the day, nearly every day.
Manic symptoms may include euphoria or irritability, increased activity or energy and other symptoms such as increased talkativeness, racing thoughts, self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility and impulsive reckless behaviour. People with bi-polar disorder are at increased risk of suicide.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The prevalence of PTSD is high in conflict affected settings. An individual can develop PTSD following exposure to extremely threatening or horrific event or series of events such as kidnapping. PTSD is characterised by all of the following:
(a) experiencing the traumatic event or events in the present. (intrusive memories).
(b) avoidance of thoughts and memories of the event or avoidance of activities, situations or people that remind one of the event. (c) persistent perceptions of heightened current threat. These symptoms persist for at least several weeks and cause significant impairment in functioning
- Disruptive behaviour and dissocial disorders. Also known as conduct disorders. Characterised by persistent behavioural problems such as persistently defiant or disobedient behaviours that persistently violate the basic rights of others or major age- appropriate societal norms, rules or laws. According to WHO, in 2019, 40 million people including children and adolescents were living with conduct dissocial disorders. The onset of this disorder may be in childhood or adolescence.
WHO IS AT RISK OF DEVELOPING MENTAL DISORDERS?
Everyone is at risk of developing a mental health disorder regardless of age, sex income or ethnicity. Social and financial circumstances, adverse childhood experiences, biological factors, underlying medical conditions can all shape a person’s mental health. People who are exposed to adverse circumstances such as childhood abuse, trauma or neglect, social isolation or loneliness, discrimination and stigmatisation, poverty or debt, homelessness, or poor housing, severe or long term stress, unemployment or loss of job. violence, disability, inequality, continuous social and economic pressure, belonging to a marginalised group, having a log-term physical health condition. are at higher risk. Drug Abuse has also been identified as a common cause of mental health disorder in Nigeria. Protective and risk factors include psychological and biological factors such as emotional skills and genetics Some individuals are more resilient than others. The situation in Nigeria encompasses all the risk factors and more.
Effective psychological treatment exists depending on age and the severity of the condition.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
- Pay attention to warning signs. Take note of triggers of stress and other risk factors, avoid them or deal with them
- Get routine medical care
- Take good care of yourself
- Develop problem solving and interpersonal skills, strengthen your coping mechanism
- Seek help when you need it – See a counsellor, a medical doctor
There are several barriers to treatment of individual Nigerians and these include: lack of understanding of the root causes of mental illnesses, lack of financial support for treatment, lack of social support (family, friends, neighbours) and fear of stigmatisation.
Remember, the theme of 2022’s World Mental Health Day is ensuring mental health and wellbeing for all becomes a global priority. Let it start with focussing on and prioritising your own mental health.
This message is from the Students’ Guidance and Counselling Centre University of Benin
Helplines: 07064632624, 08028934198