Many people live with a mental health conditions. Mental health affects everyone from all walks of life, regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality or economic status. Though mental health issues are widely known, stigma, shame, discrimination, and misunderstanding still exist especially in African countries.
What causes Mental Health Problems?
What causes mental health problems is not fully understood. Several factors matter including genetics, social context, family backgrounds and stress. Traumatic experiences or severe crises do not necessarily lead to lasting psychological suffering, depending on how resilient affected persons are.
Why are mental health problems escalating in Africa?
Mental health has been neglected in Africa’s health care which is faced by many challenges including intractable poverty, infectious diseases, maternal and child mortality. African political leaders and development agencies frequently overlook the importance of mental health. This trend is often compounded by three factors: ignorance about the extent of mental health problems, stigma against those living with mental illness and mistaken beliefs that mental illnesses cannot be treated. Absence of therapy and treatment is the norm in many African countries.
There are several reasons to give greater priority to mental health. These include the fact that doing so delivers other health benefits.
Poverty, Taboos and Societal Norms
The relationship between mental health and poverty in Africa is cyclical. Conditions of poverty increase the risk of mental illness. This happens through stress of food and income insecurity, increased trauma, illness and injures and the lack of resources to cushion the blow of these kind of events. Conversely, living with mental illness leads those affected to drift into poverty through increased healthcare expenditure, disability and stigma.
People living with mental health problems (particularly severe mental illness) are frequently stigmatized, shunned, excluded from mainstream society. This is true in Africa as it is in societies around the world. Some people are subjected to human right abuses and they are often cast aside because of cultural and religious beliefs that mental illnesses are signs of demon possession, witchcraft or evil spirits. And they are denied access to life changing therapy and treatment.
The Reverse side of Mental Health?
Mental health and physical health are inseparable. Chronic non- communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, as well as HIV have high levels of co-morbidity with mental illness. This co-morbidity doesn’t only influence disability but also has direct consequences for mortality. In addition, research shows that people living with mental illness or substance disorders are more likely to become infected with HIV. It has also been recorded that people with HIV have been shown to be twice as likely to be depressed. And treating them for depression, anxiety improves adherence and boosts their immune systems. Maternal depression has also been shown to affect the development and growth of infants.
Mental Health Interventions
There is hope. There are mental health interventions across the continent. These include pharmacological, psychological and psychotherapy interventions. Many of these have used specialist health providers, counselors, social workers and non-specialist health providers and facilitators in local communities in an attempt to reduce the cost of care. Such interventions provide significant improvement in depression, anxiety, disability, and health . Mental health interventions also improve the economic circumstances of people and households affected by mental illness. Raising awareness about mental health will help fight against stigma surrounding mental health by providing education and support to individuals with mental health conditions and their families.
Mental health illnesses cannot be cured entirely, but therapy is often very helpful. Making it available to those in need should be high on the development agenda in African countries. Those who suffer mental illnesses all too often are unable to deal with everyday tasks. They underperform in terms of education, work and social life. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “there is no health without mental health”. Accordingly, the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) about health and wellbeing explicitly includes mental health. Achieving it will require much work on emerging health priorities such as mental health, according to the WHO.Each one of us can make a difference in the lives of those who need mental health support. Talking about mental health can make a big difference. – Janice MugambiClick To Tweet
Good mental health is a good investment in the African countries. Mental health is both a means to social and economic development and is a worthy goal in itself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janice Gaceri Mugambi is a seasoned Social work practitioner and Mental health counselor in Kenya. I am currently working as a Mental Health Counselor at Sparkpluss. Sparkpluss is an online platform where individuals have access to information and resources that help them take better care of their mental, physical and social health. The aim of Sparkpluss is to promote mental health wellness and awareness. We offer free online counseling services.
I have a Msc in health and social Sciences in Coping and empowerment, a Bachelor’s of science in Social work, Diploma in Project management, Certificate in counseling and Certification in HIV counseling and Testing.
I am a motivated Professional with comprehensive knowledge of mental health, social justice issues and systems affecting marginalized communities. I am a dynamic, result oriented and a passionate Social work practitioner and counselor backed with over 8 years of work experience in social work and counseling fields in both Norway and Kenya. I am service focused with strong commitment to serving the needs of clients. I am able to work with all types of people and I have vast experience in mental health and offer counseling, support, coping and Empowerment strategies, rehabilitation, designing social services that meet the needs of clients. I am also skilled in areas of project management, case management, report writing, advocacy, teaching, training, mentoring and research.
I am dedicated to mental health, human empowerment and development and bettering communities with human centered wellness.