Mental Health Issues

Thematic Area: Mainstreaming Cross-cutting Issues
Global Mental Health Day. 10th October 2021
Close up of model brain on mental health headlines

Today being the day that we celebrate world mental health day, we are honored to have Joseph Otieno who is a counselling psychologist with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to help us understand why we celebrate this day and elaborate more on its

World mental health day celebration is an annual event and it takes place every year on the 10th of October. Its main objective is to create awareness and advocate against social stigma associated with mental health issues and also to raise awareness of mental health issues across
the globe and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. According to Joseph, some of the common mental health challenges that people face include depression, anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, Bipolar and schizophrenia.

Some of the main reasons as to why mental health still continues to be a big issue in our society is because culture has not embraced mental health or ill health but instead views it as a misfortune or a curse. Cultural perception and attitude around mental health, cultural beliefs
and religion too plays a big role. Before we go far, lets differentiate between mental health and mental illness. According to Joseph, a psychologist with KNCHR defines mental health as a person’s emotional and psychological well-being.

How someone feels about himself or herself and subsequently interact
with others while mental illness is a disorder which affects an individual’s moods, thoughts and behavior. People with mental illness do experience distress and may not appropriately function at work, social situation or even at home due to distress experiences they are in.
One of the ways we can became part of this conversation in order to help the society is by being sensitive to children during developmental stages in life and also by way of understanding. There are several factors that influence mental health including life events or even one’s genetics.

For one to be able to tell whether a person has mental illness is through his or her actions and thoughts. If one withdraws from friends and activities, significant mood changes of highs and lows. Some of the mental illnesses that we should be aware of include;

● Mood swings/ mood disorder
● Anxiety disorder
● Psychotic disorder – this include hallucinations
● Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – It is linked to traumatic events

To identify a person who could be experiencing mental illness, one must be sensitive to unusual behavior exhibited by that particular individual. One should also be observant to behavioral changes such as inability to cope with daily problems or stress, problems with alcohol or drug use, significant mood changes of highs and lows or when one is having trouble understanding or to relate to situations and to people.

Mental health has a big effect on families because when mental health illness enters a family, such family gets devastated and such illness often becomes the family’s primary focus. The illness also comes with emotional cost that can be high and deeply affecting family members at
the same time. It leads to feeling of helplessness, frustration, loss, guilt and compassion fatigue. We can demystify and remove negative approach towards persons with mental health by dealing with the misconceptions and myths around mental health that;

● Mental illness makes people violent
● People with mental illness cannot function in society
● All people with mental illnesses are crazy
● That you can’t get better if you have mental illness.

This can also be achieved if we de-stigmatize mental health in our society. Some of the ways to improve or maintain our mental health is through regular exercise because physical and mental health are connected hence maintaining physical fitness is key. You can also
find a balance between positive and negative emotions this is by learning to hold on to positive and take break from negative emotions/energy. You can also maintain a healthy social connection not forgetting developing copying skills. This is by coming up with methods used to deal with stressful situations. As a result of COVID-19, many people lost their jobs which affected so many relationships. This led to stress, anxiety, violence and gender based violence. Men are/were unable to cope with pressure of not being able to provide for their families which brought conflict, stress and stigmatization within the families.

Joseph emphasized that people need to look at mental health not from a distance but at a close range to be able to understand people who are undergoing through various mental health issues. As a society we need to understand that mental health is not a death sentence and one
can still function well in the society. 

As we celebrate mental health day, it’s an opportunity for everyone to reach out to people who are undergoing mental health issues, talk to them and make it a habit to create conversations on mental health because even stress is a mental health issue.

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