Mental Health//

Why Must We Invest in Mental Health Now?

Caring for the mind is an imperative need, more so in a country where a majority of the population is young.

Photo by Dustin Belt/Unsplash
Photo by Dustin Belt/Unsplash

Rohit (name changed) is a 22-year-old who reported to me that he feels depressed and is experiencing a significant amount of stress about college. He spent much of his day in his room playing video games and has a hard time identifying what, if anything, is enjoyable in a typical day. He rarely attended class in the last three months and has avoided reaching out to his professors to try to salvage his grades until a letter went to his parents. His concerns about how others view him are what drive him to engage in these avoidance behaviours. 

Too often, mental health stigma and discrimination from friends, family or social media leaves millions of people feeling labelled, isolated, neglected and ashamed. The mind is the most powerful organ in our body, yet many of us still don’t think about our mental health in the same way as we take utmost care of our physical health. 

Emotional health and well-being are most essential to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. It directly underpins the core human and social values of independence of thought and action, happiness, friendship and solidarity. 

Mental and emotional disorders are present at any point in time in about 10 per cent of the adult population worldwide. The burden of mental disorders is maximum in young adults, the most productive section of the population. Mental illness is still not well understood, often ignored, and considered a taboo. The mentally ill, their families and relatives, as well as professionals providing specialised care, are still the object of marked stigmatisation. These attitudes are deeply rooted in society. 

The concept of mental illness is often associated with fear of potential threat of patients with such illnesses. Fear, adverse attitude, and ignorance of mental illness can result in an insufficient focus on a patient’s physical health needs. The belief that mental illness is incurable or self-inflicted can also be damaging, leading to patients not being referred for appropriate mental healthcare. 

Mental health conditions and illnesses are on the rise across the globe for millions of people, and impact almost everyone in some way. Accentuated by the unprecedented brunt of COVID-19 pandemic, the fear of infection, repeated lockdowns, physical isolation and restrictions, racial injustice and economic instability have created widespread anxiety, panic, depression and overall emotional distress. The impact of mental health problems and illnesses are especially felt in workplaces and among working aged people, impacting employers, employees and taxpayers and if we include the impact on families and caregivers, almost everyone is impacted. 

Investing in mental health, emotional health and well-being is imperative – whether to enhance individual health and well-being, protection of human rights, improving economic efficiency, or moving towards universal health coverage. Mental health problems and illnesses have a long term economic impact because of their early onset. Children who experience mental health problems or illnesses are at much higher risk of experiencing an illness as adults, and are also more likely to have other complicating health and social problems. 

As a society we need to learn the early warning signs of diminished mental health and take as many steps to protect the individuals, businesses, economies and societies. We need to have commitment to promote, protect and restore mental health for everyone. We should impart better information, build awareness and education about mental health and illness; social services for persons with mental disorders; and enhanced legal, social and financial protection for persons, families or communities adversely affected by mental disorders. There has to be better formulation of concrete steps that governments and other stakeholders can take to reshape social attitudes and public policy.

Some of the ways each one of us can adopt: 

Mental Health affects Physical Health: One’s stress affects one’s physical wellbeing and ability to take care of themselves, and this may cause destructive patterns. 

End Stigma and Shame to Lead Better Lives: It’s important to talk about mental health, so others can also come forward about it.

Communicate with respect and acceptance: When you see someone as an individual and not as a person with mental illness can make the biggest difference for someone who is struggling with their mental health. 

Advocacy helps ensure individuals with mental illness have the same rights and opportunities as other members of the community. 

Learning and creating more awareness of mental health allows us to provide helpful support to those affected in our families and communities. 

Mental Health Affects Everything: Our mental health affects how we cope with life. Lack of treatment leads to hopelessness and sadness, worthlessness, feeling guilty, anxiety and worry, fear, and loss of control. 

When we value mental health, we lead better lives. Mental health matters. Taking care of our mental health aids in our resilience and recovery from anything that happens. We must end the stigma because mental health affects everything. And it’s never too late to do exactly that.

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