Every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life

Globally, October 10 marks the World Mental Health Day and the theme this year is the focus on suicide prevention. A highly overlooked illness which has inconspicuously been cutting lives short is mental illness, suicide rates have been on the increase and while there are no simple explanations to the sudden increase, one thing is clear, psychological and mental health disorders do not gain traction as much as physical illness.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 76 percent and 85 percent of people with mental disorders in low and middle-income countries aren’t getting the services they need. This is mainly because there is a lack of professional help and comprehensive research into the causes of each mental health triggers aren’t adequately researched.

The global burden of mental health disorders is projected to reach 15 percent by the year 2020 and it is estimated that mental disorders will disable more people than complications arising from AIDS, heart disease, Tuberculosis, malaria, accidents, and wars combined.

Generally, people are emotional beings and are likely to donate twice as much if they empathize with a picture because it’s much easier to capture a physical disease or a material need in a photo, rather than a mental disease. However, research shows the mental illness can fuel physical disease.

Sadly, mental health is the most neglected health problem in the developing world because it is still a taboo topic in most countries and discussing is similar to saying a person is crazy, mad or something is inherently wrong with you. There is a stigma attached to it whereas, in physical diseases, people separate the illness from the person.

Research shows that depression is the single most prevalent mental illness and it affects women at twice the rate of men. In Africa, depression affects 1 in 4 women and a whopping 85 percent of these women have no access to treatment.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, an estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of the 200 million population is believed to suffer from a mental disorder and the few psychiatric hospitals in the country are in hardly functional. Rehabilitation centres are non-existent and qualified psychologists are not tailored to fit each mental challenge.

The economy also suffers under the burden of mental disorder. More than a decade ago, the World Health Organization estimated that mental health conditions cost between 3 percent and 4 percent of the gross national product in European Union member countries.

In the United States, about $79 billion is lost directly or indirectly no thanks to mental disorders. Out of these $79 billion, 63 billion is lost in productivity. As of 2003, the economic burden of mental illness in Canada was estimated to be about $34 billion ($1056 per capita), with depression and schizophrenia accounting for about $5 billion and $2.7 billion annually, respectively.

Due to poor documentation and stigma attached to the illness in Africa, there is no record of the cost on the gross national product. However, with the increase in suicide in Africa in the last decade, the burden on the economy has increased tremendously.

There are several types of mental health issues but these are the most common of them.

  • Clinical depression: a mental health disorder characterised by a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.
  • Anxiety disorder: feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.
  • Bipolar disorder: episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
  • Dementia: thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
  • Schizophrenia: a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions).
  • Autism: a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a disorder characterised by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying

Here are a few ways people can look after their mental health

  • Talk about your feelings: Find and emotional support, talk to a professional or a trusted friend. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
  • Keep active: Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy.
  • Eat well: The physical health is just as important as the mental health and the body needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function.