0 October 2012
World Health Organization (WHO) defines Health as a ‘Complete state of physical, mental and social well being and NOT merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. It is important that we all understand that Health is a comprehensive term referring to Bio, Psycho and Social well being.
Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
While health is freely discussed by everyone it usually confines to physical (biological) well being and rarely the mental side. While mental well bring is not understood in the rural areas and less educated, it is shrouded in myths and superstitions. There is a big stigma in the society about mental health and it is never publicly talked about or discussed. The urban side is not doing any better on this aspect - contrary to expectations, levels of stigma are found to be higher in urban areas and among people with higher levels of education.
To increase awareness in the general public and to root out the stigma associated with mental health, counseling, therapy, etc., WHO has decided to mark a day as World Mental Health Dayand appeals to people to commemorate this day in various ways to increase awareness in public and to address the shortcomings related to this area.
As per WHO, World Mental Health Day raises public awareness about mental health issues. The day promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services.
Some more facts on Mental Health are:
•About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Around 20% of the world's children and adolescents are estimated to have mental disorders or problems, with similar types of disorders being reported across cultures. Yet, regions of the world with the highest percentage of population under the age of 19 have the poorest level of mental health resources. Most low- and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1 to 4 million people.
•On average about 800 000 people commit suicide every year, 86% of them in low- and middle-income countries. More than half of the people who kill themselves are aged between 15 and 44. Mental disorders are one of the most prominent and treatable causes of suicide.
•Stigma about mental disorders and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care
The theme for the year 2012 is “Depression: A Global Crisis”.
Depression affects more than 350 million people around the world of all ages, in all communities, and is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease. Although there are known effective treatments for depression, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10% of those who need it receive such treatment.
Very less is understood by the term Depression. Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration. It is ranked as the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but when depression is moderate or severe they may need medication and professional talking treatments.
Depression is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.
WHO believes that there is a need for Governments, donors and groups representing mental health workers, patients and their families to work together to increase mental health services. Because of the shortage of qualified Psychiatrists (As per a research article published in 2010,the average national deficit of India is estimated to be 77%. More than one-third of the population has more than 90% deficit of psychiatrists) it is necessary that social workers, lay counselors and NGOs who are trained on mental health care should pitch in to address the big gap. There is a need for several NGOs working on this area of mental health.
As we have all learned to manage major illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, etc through regular medication and life style changes we can and should learn to manage mental illnesses like depression, bi-polar disorder, etc through regular medication and counseling. For minor disturbances in mental health one should approach a trained counselor to get counseled and most of the times one would be cured of the condition. The society should come out of the stigma and become aware about mental health and seek help where and when needed.
The deficit in accessible psychiatric help being very wide (as many as 90% in certain areas in India), the nation needs a number of social workers and organizations like Seva to address the widening gap in addition to training and bringing in more psychiatrists and psychologists and therapists.
Let us work together to make ours a ‘Health’y society as per WHO’s definition - Bio, Psycho and Social well being!
Volunteer Counselor, Seva free and Confidential Counseling centre, Secunderabad (www.sevacounselingcentre.org)