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Mental health, a priority for every individual

The Perspective, with Edward Bwalya Phiri

In the book ‘Way to Health and Happiness’, the Sentinel Publishing Association wrote that, “The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many people realise. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are results of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, and distrust all tend to break down life forces and to invite decay and death. If we think and speak sadness and discouragement, we strengthen these feelings. We should consider it a duty to resist melancholy, sad, discontented thoughts and feelings.”

And Ellen Gould Harmon White wrote that, “Mind affects body. The relationship which exists between the mind and body is very intimate. When one is affected, the other one sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health of the physical system. If the mind is free and happy…it creates a cheerfulness that will react upon the whole system, causing a freer circulation of blood and toning up of the entire body.”

On the Perspective today, consideration is on mental health. Whereas the Oxford University defines mental health as, “a person’s condition with regards to their psychological and emotional well-being”, the Mental Health Act no.6 of 2019 defines it as, “A state of well-being in which a person realizes that person’s potential to cope with the normal stress of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to the person’s community.”

According to the World Health Organisation [WHO], “mental health problems range from worries we all experience as part of everyday life to serious long-term conditions. The majority of people who experience mental health problems can get over them or learn to live with them especially if they get help early on.”
Common denizens of a poor mental health include delusions, hallucinations, praecox dementia, frequent nightmares, attention problems, emotional dysfunction, mood swings, stereotypical behaviour, psychopathic personality, post-natal depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, among others.
WHO posits that, “a good mental health is the ability to; (I) learn, (II) feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions, (III) form and create good relationships, and (IV) cope with and manage change and uncertainty.” Apparently, this is the yardstick against, which you can measure your mental health. If you are lacking in any of the enumerated parameters, then you have to check your mental health status. Further, WHO highlights the following as derivatives of a good mental health; the capacity to, (I) make the most of your potential, (II) cope with life, and (III) play a full part in your family, work place, community and among friends.

Therefore, a good mental health entails a proper neurological [functional nervous system] order and a psychological [the mind and its functionality] orderliness; thus the absence of a neurosis [abnormal anxiety], psychosis [serious mental illness] and other organic diseases. Therefore, a higher premium needs to be placed on awareness and prevention of mental malaise and its causes. Adam Ant once said that, “Mental health needs a great deal of attention, it’s the final taboo and need to be faced and dealt with.” Success in prevention of mental maladies therefore entails being acquainted with the aetiology [learning the causes of mental illnesses].

One of the permanent fixture on the itinerary for the annual commemorations, relating to the subject is October 10, which is world mental health day. This year the day was commemorated under the theme, “Mental health for all.” The objective was to encourage everyone to take interest in the subject as it affects everyone. It’s a topical issue, which is shrouded in myths, and attracts stigma to the victims. Each time the subject is brought up, what immediately comes to the fore is insanity, lunacy or imbecility. However, the subject is far wider than that.

It goes without saying that majority of Zambians subsist on the ‘feed as you earn’ scheme. And the current economic situation has impacted negatively on the mental health state of many. While the cost of living has exponentially gone up, the earning capacity has reduced for most people. It is also a fact that some people have lost their jobs and others have lost a market share for their businesses. This is reason enough for mental anguish.

The coronavirus pandemic is yet another cause for mental distress. Apart from its economic devastation, there is a manifest psychological burnouts due to some restraints occasioned by the pandemic. William Wan reported in The Washington Post that, “…the coronavirus pandemic [is]…generating widespread psychological trauma…experts warn that a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.”

It must be appreciated that mental distress affects everyone, in different situations and at different levels. If not arrested in its infancy, it can herald serious long-term and or permanent repercussions. Stress is almost routine, it can lead to trauma, which in turn can lead to depression. And severe depression if not addressed can lead to death or insanity. According to Dr. Albert Park and Dr. Mike Conway, “Mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are common, incapacitating, and have the potential to be fatal. Despite the prevalence and gravity of mental disorders, our knowledge concerning everyday challenges associated with these conditions is relatively limited, especially when compared with many physical conditions.”

Mental health is indispensable to the survival, well-being and success of any individual and society; it has moral, social and economic impact upon individuals and the community as a whole. Poor mental health in individuals increases chances of vices and incidences in society, which may result into a drain on resources, work apathy, loss of man hours, a reduction in labour productivity and ultimately loss of income or revenue.

The onus therefore is on each and every individual, to monitor their mental status; develop a culture and lifestyle that will improve their mental health, such as having a balanced diet, having a confidant to always confide in or talking to a professional counsellor, regular exercises, adequate rest, leisure time, listen to music, watch movies, read books, go out to the countryside and appreciate nature, and having faith in the superior deity.

A good mental health will help to avoid innumerable physical diseases. Ellen G.H White wrote that, “A great deal of the sickness which affects humanity has its origin in the mind and can be cured by restoring the mind to health. There are very many more than we imagine who are sick mentally.” And Mary Baker Eddy wrote that, “Science not only reveals the origin of disease as mental, but it declares that all disease is cured by divine mind. There can be no healing except by the mind….”

The foregoing assertion does not only hold in medicine, but in psychology as well. Renown Psychologists, Tony Malim and Anna Birch, wrote that, “Four centuries before Christ, Hippocrates, who might be called the father of medicine, taught his students to note the emotional states and general background of their patients. He believed that health is affected by the mind, and that to be whole, a person must get into harmony with himself and with the world around him.”

Allow me therefore, to conclude with the following quote, “Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” For today I will end here; it’s Au revoir, from EBP.

For comments: elbardogma@yahoo.com

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