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Mental health as national priority

The World Mental Health Day was recently celebrated globally. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Living with Schizophrenia.” It was an acknowledgement that a good portion of the world’s population suffers the barely tangible but disabling disease of “split personality.”
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, relates to others and perceives reality. It is said to result when a certain type of protein predominates in the brain.
Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and catatonia, which is when a person stays in a single position for a long period of time.
Unfortunately not enough information or awareness of the diseases is available to the general public, especially in developing countries where signs of mental impairment are frowned at and stigmatized.
The world should, indeed, gear up in raising awareness about this mental ailment and mobilizing support for care of individuals with the ailment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set aside the World Mental Health Day for the awareness of mental health issues and mobilization of efforts to support such efforts. The day is also meant to create an avenue for all stakeholders on mental health issues to freely discuss and share experiences about their jobs.
The World Mental Health Day is significant because, according to statistics, about 240 million people across the world experience depression and other symptoms of mental illness during their lifetime.  If this is not properly addressed, the figure may go beyond the capacity of health experts to cope with.
There are so many factors responsible for mental disorder.  These include high consumption of the wrong types of food, psychotropic drugs, poverty and high level of stress induced by institutional deficiencies (like lack of social infrastructure).
There is the need for both states and the Federal Government to abide by both the World Development Report and Global Burden Disease Report, which stress the need to pay attention to the well-being of those afflicted by mental disorders.
The reports also made recommendations for expanding and improving the current system of mental health delivery, provide cost effective interventions and provide effective care, enhancing the human resources, establishing national health policies, legislation and programmes, encouraging families, communities and users to be involved in the reduction of stigma and discrimination.
The man-made consequences and collateral damages caused by widespread stigma, ignorance and general negative attitude and lack of understanding on the part of the public towards mental ailment need to be vigorously tackled and overcome.
In sum, all tiers of government must be committed to a mental health policy that seeks to combat stigma and discrimination against those with mental health problems.  This is to ensure the mental well-being of the citizens.
While there is need for more mental health care facilities, there is also the need for the employment and deployment of more mental health workers not only to the urban areas but also to the grassroots to take care of those affected.  Government should also ensure more funding for these hospitals for effective running of the facilities.
A system of community care should be developed to help those admitted in specialist facilities for the treatment of Schizophrenia to ultimately fit back into the community.
While advocating the establishment of more psychiatric hospitals in the country to cater for the mentally ill, government must also fund these hospitals for effective discharge of their duties for which they were established.  People should also be encouraged to go to hospitals for check-ups on the state of their mental as well as physical health.
It is also imperative that the laws governing the sale and consumption of hard drugs and other psychotropic substances be implemented.
Considering the fact that mental illness knows no boundaries and can affect people irrespective of their races or color, age or economic status, there may be the need for mental or psychiatric test for politicians before clearing them to run for various offices in order to ensure that only the mentally stable captain the ship of state at various levels of government.
This has become very imperative considering the dysfunctional behaviors of some public officers who, at times, cannot be differentiated from common thugs.
More enlightenment campaigns should be stepped up for the general populace to desist from stigmatization of the mentally ill, which is also a mental health problem itself.  People must be educated not to stigmatize the mentally deranged because doing so means they themselves are mentally unbalanced.
It is common in some places that mentally ill people are usually ridiculed and physically and sexually abused.
It should also be noted that suffering from any mental illness does not mean the end of life as some of the cases can be treated or managed medically.
More effort should be made by government and other relevant agencies to let the victims of mental disorder know that with proper medication and other services tailored to their needs, the impact of the mental illness can be significantly reduced.

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