5 Mental Health Facts You Should Know
The World Health Organization (WHO) aptly describes mental health 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 his or her community.’
Meaning, mental health is not simply the absence of a mental illness or disorder but also includes an overall positive state of mental wellbeing. Just as we focus on physical health, the same attention must be given to our mental health.
Here are some quick facts you should know:
1. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
Affecting over 300 million people worldwide, depression is the most common mental illness followed closely by anxiety disorders (WHO).
Our understanding of the term disability often references to physical disability, yet according to WHO, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
At times referred to as the ‘invisible disability’, depression is difficult to outrightly recognize because the symptoms mirror normal human emotion such as sadness and anger, making it difficult to be sympathetic to those suffering from the condition.
A 2015 WHO study on mental disorders estimated that depression is the most common mental disorder in Kenya affecting 4.4% of the population, an equivalent of 1.9
2. Over 800,000 people die from Suicide Annually
Statistics from the WHO show that suicide accounts for approximately 800,000 deaths each year and is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 yr-olds globally.
75% of these suicides occur in low and middle-income economies with mental disorders and substance abuse as the main contributors to suicide deaths around the world.
In Kenya, a recent survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that out of the 421 cases of suicide reported in 2017, men accounted for 330 and women 91 of the cases.
3. Human Rights Violations of MentallyIll People
Earlier in July, the BBC Africa investigative feature Rehab Nightmare: Drugs, Chains and Canes aired shocking many that mentally ill patients were still mistreated in this day and age.
The feature showed the patients being flogged and forced to drink herbal concoctions supposedly to ‘clean their systems’. The patients would then vomit from the terrible effects of the concoction.
This is not unique to Kenya. The WHO alludes to the fact that globally, the basic human rights of mentally ill persons are routinely violated through seclusion, physical restraint, denial of basic needs and privacy.
Few countries have a legal structure that sufficiently protects the rights of people with mental disorders.
4. Shortage of Skilled Mental Health Professionals
In the WHO Mental Health Atlas 2017 estimates, the global median of mental health workers is 9 per 100,000 people with less than 1in lower-income countries to 72 in higher-income countries.
The same report indicated that in Africa, a low-income region, there are 0.9 health workers per 100,000 people. There about 100 psychiatrists in Kenya with most based in Nairobi and the other regions having one or none at all.
Shortage of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, and social workers are among the main barriers to providing treatment and care in low and middle-income countries.
5. Stigma and Discrimination against Patients and Families
Half-truths and stereotypes against mental health have created a thriving environment for stigma hindering patients from seeking help, thereby increasing the treatment gap for mental disorders.
The WHO contends that the stigma associated with mental disorders can result in social isolation, low self-esteem and more limited chances in areas such as employment, education, and housing.
Despite the existence of effective treatments for mental disorders, there is a belief that they are untreatable or that people with mental disorders are difficult, not intelligent, or incapable of making decisions.