Mental health, more awareness, more access

Mental health, more awareness, more access
October 8, 2020 No Comments » Uncategorized admin

 Today on the World Mental Health Day 2020, we would like to talk about the theme – Mental Health for All; Greater Investment – Greater Access; particularly in context to the way the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the global mental health scenario.

Mental Health – What about it?

Pick up a newspaper. How likely are you to coming across a news-story of a suicide or depression? Very, aren’t you? Not limited to any society stratum, mental health may be affected because of social, financial, emotional factors. Nobody is immune to mental illnesses; no matter what the gender, age, socio-economic status, race is. And yet how many are really in a position to avail of the treatments and services for the mental illnesses?

Needless to say, that the absence of access to these services could have devastating effects for an individual, a family, a society, and even an entire nation. The effects range from emotional trauma to poor physical health and a drop in productivity, not to mention financial losses. 

One study in the last decade and a half has tried to impute costs of mental illnesses vis-à-vis the physical illnesses to an economy. From the 36 participating countries, the analysis showed an annual cost of around a trillion USD arising out of neglecting mental health.

On the other hand every USD 1 invested in mental health results in a return of USD 4 in terms of productivity as a result of good mental health.

Yet countries continue to invest less that 1 percent of their health budget in mental health sector.

The need to prioritize mental health is being increasingly felt across the globe in the past few years.

Since not having mental disorders does not ensure that a person is in good mental health, it is becoming imperative to read the early signs of distress in order to stop any further decline. Awareness of the same can be a good first step towards establishing a good support system.

More Awareness

Societies in mid to lower socio economic background are usually the ones that neglect mental health or do not have the means to access the services and treatments. Even now many still consider meeting a mental health practitioner for the social stigma that they imagine will come with it. Unlike in the more developed countries, in the developing world people are more comfortable presenting a happy façade than reaching out to a mental health practitioner. The reasons range from a social stigma attached to mental illnesses to financial inability to pay for the treatment.

It is high time the necessity of focusing on a state of mental well-being is emphasized. That even small diseases can be attended to and most likely treated to improve the general quality of life is everyone’s right.

 We can all do our part in this exercise, small or big; both as individuals and as a society:

1. Host events

Talk shows with eminent psychiatrists and psychologists which directly provide information about mental health can be very helpful.

On the other hand events which are more entertaining in nature may attract a larger audience and may be used as a medium to pass on the relevant messages.

2. Tell stories

It is important to tell stories of success in battling mental illnesses as well as those that could have become happy stories but for the absence of intervention and help. Since stories of real persons connect directly with people they are likely to have more impact.

3. Talk about it

Make it a point to talk about promoting mental health whenever the opportunities arise. You never know who might pluck the courage to approach the right channel.

4. Help lines

Establishing help lines for not just disorders and suicides but also apparently smaller causes like drug abuse, anger management, etc. can prevent many stories from going wrong.

5. Encourage

All of us need encouragement and support in the right direction. Reach out to the people who seem to be battling with some mental health challenges.

More Access

Parallel to the work on awareness levels, there needs to be improvements in the access to mental health resources.. Helplines, websites, private practices, patient support groups, social media, and non-profit health organizations are all means to increasing the access to mental health resources.

What are some ways in which mental health resources can be made more accessible?

1. Online tools

Many practitioners are already resorting to providing online services. These can also be extended to diagnostic tools and for directing those in need to the proper channels.

Hotlines are another way to provide distant support, especially the ones that maintain patient’s anonymity and confidentiality.

2. Combining with PHC

An appointment with a counsellor can be made available in the PHCs(primary health care centres) as a part of primary health checkups. This helps in early detection and prevention.

3. Expanding the Mental health workforce

The workforce in the area of mental health must be expanded to meet the new needs. Recruiting, providing training to qualified practitioners in large numbers to meet the growing need is the need of the hour and the government needs to invest in building this workforce.

4. Delegating to the training workforce

The senior and experienced practitioners can train and delegate work to the trainees to be able to cope up with the requirements once they are detected.

In the end

Since the COVID pandemic, it is common knowledge that we are facing a steep rise in mental health challenges over the next few years. Isolation, ill health, death, confusion, unemployment, financial losses are severely affecting not only individuals and families but the society at large.

More than ever it is important to focus on making mental health services available and accessible to everyone – nobody should be left behind.

Look around and try to loop in whoever you can. That would be your bit done!

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