Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority - Eastern Mirror
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Make Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority

By EMN Updated: Oct 08, 2022 8:08 pm

World Mental Health Day 2022

Introduction: Mental wellness is a lifelong process and a proactive strategy to strengthen our mental, emotional, social, and psychological resources. On one level, mental wellness is about prevention; coping with life’s adversity; and being resilient when we face stress, worry, loneliness, anger, and sadness. Mental wellbeing is an integral part of our overall health. Society often thinks of health as something biological and physical: the condition of our bodies, how healthy we eat, the physical exercise we do. A key component of health is missing from this, though. It’s mental wellbeing, which encompasses our inner workings and the way we describe how we are in our lives. Mental wellbeing, in general, is the state of thriving in various areas of life, such as in relationships, at work, play, and more, despite ups and downs. It’s the knowledge that we are separate from our problems and the belief that we can handle those problems.

Mental Health a Global Priority: Whilst the pandemic has, and continues to, take its toll on our mental health, the ability to reconnect through World Mental Health Day 2022 will provide us with an opportunity to re-kindle our efforts to protect and improve mental health. Many aspects of mental health have been challenged; and already before the pandemic in 2019 an estimated one in eight people globally were living with a mental disorder. At the same time, the services, skills and funding available for mental health remain in short supply, and fall far below what is needed, especially in low and middle income countries.The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis for mental health, fuelling short-and long-term stresses and undermining the mental health of millions. Estimates put the rise in both anxiety and depressive disorders at more than 25% during the first year of the pandemic. At the same time, mental health services have been severely disrupted and the treatment gap for mental health conditions has widened. Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence and public health emergencies affect whole populations, threatening progress towards improved well-being; a staggering 84 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced during 2021.  We must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors.  We must strengthen mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable and quality services and supports.

Stigma and discrimination continue to be a barrier to social inclusion and access to the right care; importantly, we can all play our part in increasing awareness about which preventive mental health interventions work and World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to do that collectively. We envision a world in which mental health is valued, promoted and protected; where everyone has an equal opportunity to enjoy mental health and to exercise their human rights; and where everyone can access the mental health care they need.

The nature of Mental Health: After a history of much misunderstanding and stigmatisation of mental ill-health, there is an understandable move to DE stigmatise people who experience mental ill-health whether transient or long term. But this itself has resulted in some confusion. Mental health is too often conceptualised as either entirely organic (eg. genetic, biological or brain chemistry factors contributing to etiology) or entirely social (the result of stressors such as work stress, poverty or discrimination). This is an oversimplification. Social determinants and stressors and organic causes can work together in different ways to bring about or sustain mental health challenges.

Mental health problems play a part in chronic physical conditions (eg Cancer, HIV, heartdisease, diabetes) and in the development of healthy or unhealthy lifestyles. Poor mental health also has an important connection to worklessness. Mental healthproblems which are unresolved can be the cause of people needing to leave work or finding it difficult to get into work, and worklessness itself can bring about depression and other problems. Ensuring good mental health for all across the life course, especially in theworkplace, is good for the economy. There is a large and growing evidence-base demonstrating effective approaches to the promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illness. More recently, the rise of concepts such as mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery, with increasing bodies of knowledge behind them, have meant that it is time to revise significantly our common views of what mental health is made up of.

Mental Wellbeing and resilience: A relatively new concept of mental wellbeing has been the subject of much research and discussion. It is not just the absence of mental ill-health but is a manifold of both states (which includes happiness/satisfaction) and attributes which may be partly attitudinal and partly skill based. This range of psychological attributes includes confidence, optimism, agency-the ability to look after and manage oneself, and to be able to have and make meaningful choices for oneself and manage ones emotions. Key to well being is resilience- the ability to address and manage stressors and situations which may affect our sense of wellbeing and stay well duringtimes of challenge. Mental Health is therefore best seen as something which comprises a spectrum from healthy to coping to unwell. People may move along that spectrum in both directions across their life.

Good mental wellbeing, not just the absence of mental ill-health or the ability to copewith mental ill-health, is important to healthy and productive lives. Positive psychological functioning including resilience underpins academic achievement ineducation, workplace and personal relationship success and the ability to cope withlife stressors.There is also a very strong link between social isolation and poor mental health. Bullying, victimisation and denying people the value and integrity of the iridentity can all have seriously deleterious impacts on mental wellbeing. Living in good relationship to self, others and (in an ecological perspective of mentalhealth) creation can all be conceptualised as crucial to, and outcomes of, positive mental wellbeing. This is a dynamic, nota static state.

Recovery: Recently, an increasing focus on recovery has developed in mental health services and movements, comprising both clinical recovery (the resolution of symptoms, and their underlying causes where possible and the ability to function well) and personal recovery which can mean anything from living independently to flourishing as muchas possible over the life course, despite knowing that intermittent crises or long termlife with a mental health condition may occur. Recovery signifies the commitment tobe as whole as possible, to adjust to the reality of one’s health and to live meaning fully and hopefully. It is clear that we face a significant set of challenges in our society today. Financial  austerity in mental health services, a growing set of stressors across the life course from education through workplace to retirement, the increasing loneliness of many and constant social tensions between various populations mean that a commitment to create the conditions where people and populations can be whole remains a major challenge. For those in mental health systems, the fragmentation of the system may serve to keep people dependent on services rather than support their journey to flourishing.

Conclusion: Our mental health is not, as once believed, a function of purely individual characteristics or ‘character’ in a moral sense; rather it is determined by a whole range of influences almost all of which are out of our control including but not limited to genetics, parenting, schooling, social position, discrimination and so on. It should follow from all of this that a purely individual focused and illness-focused concept of mental health is inadequate given what we now know. This population approach, increasingly being known as Public Mental Health, can be described as Public mental health as “the art and science of improving mental health and wellbeing and preventing mental illness through the organised efforts and informed choices of society, organisations, public and private, communities and individuals.”Core to public mental health will be the idea that mental health and mental wellbeing should be at the heart of all we do, and that there can be ‘no health without mental health.

Rev. Fr. C. Joseph,
Counsellor. St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous) Jakhama

By EMN Updated: Oct 08, 2022 8:08:49 pm