By: Nana Ama Walker, Obed Ofori Nyarko
The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not just the absence of disease (WHO, 1984) which implies that being healthy doesn’t only mean physical health. Also, the WHO defines mental health as a state in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.(“Mental health,” )
World mental health day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It is celebrated annually on the 10th day of October. In 2018 it was celebrated with the theme “Young people and mental health in a changing world”. The theme for 2019 world mental health day is “Suicide Prevention”(“World Mental Health Day 2019,”)
By the definition of mental health, one can say mental health is not merely the absence of a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) describes about 297 disorders. These include: depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, sleep disorder, eating disorders, etc. Mental disorders are caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors which include inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth (drinking of alcohol or abuse of drugs during pregnancy) and impaired function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Risk factors for developing mental illnesses include a family history of mental illness, stressful life events (loss of a loved one, divorce, and assault), use of alcohol or recreational drugs, childhood history of abuse or neglect. Signs and symptoms of mental health vary depending on the disorder, it however includes the following: feeling sad or down, inability to concentrate, inability to think well, excessive fears, feelings of guilt, withdrawal from friends and activities, sleeping too much or too little, extreme mood changes of highs and lows, delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, problems with alcohol or drug use, excessive anger, suicidal thinking.(“Mental illness – Symptoms and causes,”)
Mental illnesses when not treated can lead to worsening of the condition as well as emotional and physical health complications. It may also lead to relationship problems, financial problems, social isolation amongst others. There is no specific way to prevent mental illness since it has genetic factors causing it. However, environmental factors precipitating it can be avoided.
The 2019 world mental health day is going to be celebrated with the theme” Suicide Prevention”
Every 40seconds someone dies from suicide.(“World Mental Health Day 2019: focus on suicide prevention,”) This makes suicide prevention a necessity in this generation. Suicide amongst males is also four times higher in males than in females even though more females attempt suicide. Some suicide warning signs include: individuals talking a lot about suicide, saying goodbyes, seeking lethal means, feeling of hopelessness, feelings of guilt, withdrawal from others, sudden change in behavior.
Individuals can help prevent suicide by the following: asking the suicidal individuals if their thinking about killing themselves, reducing access to lethal items, listening carefully and acknowledging their feelings, helping them connect to suicide prevention help lines (for Ghana: call 0509497705,0558424645 or text 71188# ) and lastly staying in touch.
Destigmatization of mental illness will help suicide prevention. And seeking for help does not mean one is weak. Having mental illness can happen to anyone irrespective of their age, race and ethnicity. Individuals are encouraged to seek appropriate help in health facilities just like how help for physical health challenges are sought.
Mental health: Definition, common disorders, and early signs [WWW Document], n.d. . Med. News Today. URL https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154543.php (accessed 10.5.19).
Mental illness – Symptoms and causes [WWW Document], n.d. . Mayo Clin. URL https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968 (accessed 10.5.19).
World Mental Health Day 2019, n.d. . Natl. Aware. Days Events Cal. 2019 2020 – UK US. URL https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019/ (accessed 10.5.19).
World Mental Health Day 2019: focus on suicide prevention [WWW Document], n.d. URL https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention (accessed 10.5.19).