According to the World Health Organization (WHO) mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (WHO: 2020).
Unfortunately, mental conditions were regarded as something separate from our overall health for too long and detached the mind from the body. According to Tyson (2020) we face an epidemic of mental health problems that cuts across borders, economies, and cultures, and it carries a stigma that leaves people suffering in silence (Tyson: 2020). As a result, millions of people needing mental health support have been ignored, with a dramatic impact on economic resources, productivity, and output. In reality, mental and physical health are closely connected with each other and contributes to our overall well-being. In order for future generations to have a more prosperous and happier life, we have to admit this and start focussing on the root cause of a condition that should be recognised more seriously.
In order to address major global problems such as mental health, attempts must be cooperative and maintainable to succeed. In this spirit, Tyson (2020), urged leaders to join him in considering the adoption of four critical priorities to support mental health and wellness. It is imperative that the following factors are critically considered if we intend to change people’s perceptions regarding mental illness and health.
Reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace
Most important is that mental health and wellness issues at work, schools, and communities and in our homes are acknowledged in order to make a difference. Ignoring or keeping quiet about a condition that can be treated and even prevented in some cases, is not a solution. Focusing on mental healthcare should be as routine as seeking treatment for diabetes, and other physical conditions.
Reduce mental health discrimination
Lower-income communities are often at great risk of pathology and face obstacles to getting care. This is in part due to a lack of specialised resources, compared to wealthier areas. The World Health Organization cites depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and Zimbabwe is no exception. In the Shona language, it’s referred to as kufungisisa, or “thinking too much,” a term used to describe mental, social, and/or spiritual depression or anxiety.
Despite Zimbabweans being aware of the issue, there is a severe shortage of mental healthcare professionals needed to come up with creative solutions. The Friendship Bench Project is an ingeniously straightforward answer to this complex challenge. Primary care clinics first screen incoming patients using a questionnaire to assess their symptoms. If the patient’s score is above a certain threshold, they’re referred to a Friendship Bench, which is essentially a park bench staffed by a Harare health authority employee who has been trained to provide problem-solving therapy (https://lifespeak.com/4-intere-ways-mental-illness-addressed-around the world/) [Accessed 12 December 2020].
Health systems must shift from “sick-care” to “well-care”
It is necessary to understand how to oppose and improve the effects of hostile childhood experiences, which are highly associated with poor mental and physical health later in life. By doing this, we follow up prevention as the most efficient approach. Nurturing, rather than treating neglect or trauma, will be the key to better mental health for future generations and is something that will not be found in hospitals or clinics, but in our own communities and homes.
Strengthen efforts to connect the mind and body
Improved integrating of mental health services into primary care systems, will show that a mental health condition is no different from a respiratory, endocrine, or heart issue. In other words, people who need treatment beyond what can be delivered in primary care, should be able to see a specialist in the same way they would be referred to an orthopaedist or cardiologist.
High levels of anxiety in children
According to the Head of Paediatrics at the University of the Free State, Professor Andre Venter, South Africa has the highest levels of anxiety in children in the world and it is on the increase. This is why experts believe stress-management techniques should be built into the school curriculum (Tyson: 2020). Herold, in Tyson (2020) advocates a system of teaching behaviour called Conscious Discipline, which is a series of skills to help children problem-solve and stay on task. But in order for children to have the ability to learn these skills, they need to feel safe and loved (Tyson: 2020).
Seven skills of Conscious Discipline
- Composure results in being able to manage anger and delay gratification, which leads to the development of integrity.
- Encouragement develops social skills, kindness, caring and helpfulness, which leads to interdependence, optimism and gratitude.
- Assertiveness helps with preventing bullying and creates healthy boundaries, leading to respect for the self and others.
- Choices help to guard against acting on impulse and assists to achieve goals, which encourages persistence.
- Empathy helps regulate emotions and gain perspective, teaching children to honour diversity and value honesty.
- Positive intent aids problem-solving and cooperation, which increases compassion and acts of generosity.
- Consequence helps children learn from their mistakes and act responsibly.