Mental Health For All: Let's Make It A Reality.
What Is Mental Health? How is it important?
Mental health is an important part of human health and overall well-being. All too often, the subject of mental health appears to be a negative one; messages such as "Say no to suicide", "If you are depressed seek help," tend to dominate such discussions. WHO famously defines health as "... a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This means that we must define mental health as being fully healthy mentally, and not merely the absence of any and all mental disturbances (such as anxiety, depression and so on). It also implies that these discussions must examine the physical, social and other factors that affect the mental health of individuals and communities in general. Anonymous said "The mind and body are separate, what affects one, affects the other" This is evident as we are products of our thoughts. Mental health is pivotal also because it can affect one's physical health. Hence, the need to prioritize our mental health.
What is the state of Mental Health in Africa?
The state of mental health in Africa is quite poor. Sankoh et al (2018) deplored the situation, describing African governments as unwilling or unable to invest resources into the sector. The paper cited statistics that showed African nations as being far behind; worldwide, 1,051 visits per 100,000 people were made annually to outpatient mental health facilities, compared to 14 visits per 100,000 in Africa. Overall, the continent lacks access to standard mental healthcare facilities and personnel. Every 100,000 Africans have only 1.4 mental health workers available, compared to 9 workers per 100,000, which is the global average.
The Borgen Project (2020), has listed several factors responsible for the poor state of mental healthcare in many African countries; poverty, war and conflict, lack of awareness, local misconceptions and myths about people with mental disorders, resources being diverted to other more pressing diseases such as HIV/AIDS and many more. As a result, many people have functional disorders; disorders that do not visibly affect their daily activities e.g. anxiety. They very often do not receive any care from the mental health facilities available, which are usually reserved for the most severe cases.
How can we make mental health for all a reality?
Good mental health begins with us as individuals, it is often the little things. Medline Plus (2020) mentions that there is often a link between physical health and mental health. Healthy habits such as eating regular nutritious meals, regular aerobic exercise, and getting enough sleep, can help us in coping better with the stresses of daily life. Alcohol and substance abuse and other mind-altering substances do not help; they are simply temporary solutions that will end up becoming long term problems.
We must also remember, that above all, we are social creatures. Having good relationships with trusted individuals definitely has beneficial effects on mental health. Sometimes, all that is needed for us to feel better is simply talking about our feelings and experiences in a safe space. And as we do this, we must not forget to be kind also. One act of kindness can bring hope to those who need it the most.
What is our role as pharmacists in achieving mental health for all?
In spite of the lack of access to proper mental healthcare in many African countries, pharmacists can step up and play a major role in this field. Moore et al (2018) give details on how pharmacists can help, including:
- Educating patients on the proper use of medication, and the dangers of misuse.
- Identifying traits that could indicate a mental health problem, such as behavioural and mood changes in the patient; and encouraging the patient to seek further help where necessary.
- Recommending non-drug remedies that could improve a patient's mental health such as; music, meditation, exercise, taking up a new hobby to serve as a coping mechanism etc.
- Above all, the pharmacist has a duty to treat the patient with full respect, provide a medium for them to express themselves fully with respect to their health, and give the best care possible.
In conclusion, good mental health and well being is the right of every person. It is also the responsibility of everyone to secure that right for themselves, their communities and the world at large.
- Mental Health: Strengthening Our Response (2018). Retrieved 15th October 2021. Available from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response
- Sankoh O, Sevalie S. and Weston M. (2018), Mental health in Africa. Lancet Global Health 6; 9. Retrieved 15th October 2021. Available from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(18)30303-6/fulltext
- 5 Challenges To Mental Health in Africa. Retrieved 15th October 2021. Available from https://borgenproject.org/mental-health-in-africa/
- How To Improve Mental Health. Retrieved 15th October 2021. Available from https://medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html
- Moore C.H., Powell B.D. and Kyle J.A,(2018) The Role of the Community Pharmacist in Mental Health. US Pharm. 2018;43(11):13-20. Retrieved 15th October 2021. Available from https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/the-role-of-the-community-pharmacist-in-mental-health