No health without mental health

Posted on October 01, 2020

Mental health is the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment. It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

According to the W.H.O, Mental health is the 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 contribute to her or his community.

We all go through mental health issues at one point in our daily lives, so no one is immunes to it. It is therefore important to be able to know some common Mental Health Issues/Illnesses. They may include the ordinary stress, anxiety, mood disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, panic and anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, various addictions, depression, suicide and suicide ideation and not forgetting the effects of Covid-19.

A common mental health issue that we all go through and is highly ignored, is stress. Stress can be either good (eustress) or bad (distress). Stress can be defined as the body’s automatic response to any physical or mental demand placed on it. The question would be, are you able to identify the source of distress and resolve it?

There are various sources of distress, however the common ones include work, school, family, marital/relationships, finances, environment/living situation, prolonged unresolved issues, poor change management due to retirement, imbalance work-life, health/illnesses.

The body system has a way of warning us that things are not okay. The only problem is, do we listen? Some of the warning signs include; being overemotional, restlessness, irritability, restlessness, poor performance, mood swings (both male and female, yes, men do have mood swings), weight loss or gain, stress eating, increased alcohol and substance use, increased smocking, insomnia, muscular tension, skin outbreaks, constipation or diarrhoea, pessimism, hair loss, headaches, fatigue, burnout etc.

When driving in a super highway and constantly accelerating without stepping on the brake pad, you are bound to cause an accident. The same concept applies to our body systems. When do you remember to step on the body’s break pad?

The break pad in this case can be equated to an individual getting awareness that there is a problem, accepting that there is a problem and eventually seeking help. Help can come from use of body relaxation exercises like – deep breathing techniques, muscle relaxation techniques by use of stress balls, physical exercise, meditation, praying etc to bring a balance to the system, then dealing with the issue or seeking counselling. We all need help or support at some point in our lives.

The whole month of September and October 10th are very important months and day in the mental health calendar. The month of September is dedicated to suicide prevention which is classified under mental health illnesses, and October 10th is the World Mental Health Day.

Suicide is the deliberate and intentional act of killing self. Unfortunately, in Kenya, this is still considered a criminal act as opposed to a mental health issue. We hope that soon this narrative will change so that the individuals can receive the necessary help before they end up dying by suicide.

The warning signs of suicide may include; talking a lot about death and dying, isolating self, loss of interest in school, work or hobbies; giving away precious/prized possessions, has attempted suicide before etc.

These individuals are asking for help, so the help we can give is identifying the signs and assisting them in seeking the necessary help.

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

Lilian Mwashuma – Psychologist.