OVERVIEW

Most occupations around the world, involve the use of one’s mind in acquiring optimum efficiency in the workplace.

However, if the mental state of the individual is affected, it affects the company as a whole. This portrays the significance of mental health not only in interpersonal relations but also in human resource development of a nation.

What then is mental health?

DEFINITION

Mental health refers to a level of psychological well-being or a state of satisfactory emotional and behavioral adjustment without any mental illness.

This excludes any disturbances in thinking, emotion and/or behavior. These disturbances can cause significant distress to the person and interfere with daily routine or activity.

In contrast, mental illness cannot always be clearly differentiated from normal behavior. An instance, of bereavement due to the death of a relative, spouse or child is difficult to distinguish from depression. This is because both involve sadness and a depressed mood.

In view of this, mental illness and mental health are best thought of as a continuum. The differentiating parameters is based on the following:
• Severity of symptoms
• Duration of symptoms
• Effect of symptoms in the ability to function in daily life

ETIOLOGY

Mental illness, currently is thought to be caused by a group of interacting factors, including the following:

• Hereditary
• Biologic (physical factors)
• Psychologic
• Environmental (social and cultural factors included)

Recent studies have proven that most mental health disorders, are influenced by heredity. Persons whose genetic make-up make them vulnerable to such disorders, can develop a mental disorder as a result of combined life stresses such as difficulties at work or with family.

Most scientists also consider impairment of chemical messenger (neurotransmitters) regulation in the brain, as a contributing factor to mental health disorders. The basis of this theory is based on changes on brain imaging techniques such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) seen in the brains of people with mental health disorder.

However, whether the changes seen on imaging tests are the cause or result of the mental illness still remains unclear.

 

EPIDEMIOLOGY

Recent studies in the Sub-Saharan Africa, suggest mental health problems are becoming an issue of importance in Africa. Between 2000 and 2015, the continent’s population grew by 49%, however the number of years lost to disability as a result of mental and substance use disorders increased by 52%. About 17.9 million youths were lost to disability as a consequence of mental health problems in the year 2015.

Recent research done on the mental health of Africa, suggests average number of psychiatrists in Africa is 0.05/100,000 population in the African region. Most mental health services in Africa are provided by psychiatric nurses.

Africa’s population is expected to double in the next three decades, and with pressures of unemployment among the youth, psychological effect of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder would increase, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms below may differ from person to person. However, most common ones especially seen in children are feelings of:

• Sadness
• Fear
• Worry
• Anger
• Excitement
• Withdrawal
• Loneliness

diagnosis

Diagnosis and treatment of mental illness involves a multidisciplinary approach between the doctor and the psychiatrist. However, your health practitioner can identify mental disorders by the following:

• Ask relations or colleagues about the person’s behaviors and any physical symptoms
• Interact with the person and observe how he or she acts
• Some blood tests can be done to see if it is an issue with the person’s physical health

TREATMENT

Most mental disorders are treated with the following:

• Cognitive Behavioral therapy
• Electro-convulsive Therapy
• Medications such as anticonvulsants

PREVENTION

The following strategies are normally implemented in reducing the prevalence of mental health disorders and rehabilitating those suffering from mental illness:

• Assertive Community Treatment:

Developed from deinstitutionalization, provides a safe net for people with chronic mental illness. This involves a team of social workers, rehabilitation specialists, counselors, nurses and psychiatrists (a multidisciplinary team).

The team provides individualized services to people who have a serious mental illness and cannot or will not go to the clinic for help. These services are provided in the person’s own home or neighborhood.

• Social Support:

Recent studies have shown that strong social support may significantly improve recovery from physical and mental illnesses.

Self-help groups and mutual aid groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous; Narcotics Anonymous which focus on addictive behavior and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which focuses on supporting families of people who have a severe mental illness, have been of immense benefit.