On Wednesday October 10, last, many countries around the world, including Guyana, celebrated World Mental Health Day under the theme, “Young people and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
First celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries, World Mental Health Day has become a global event with millions of advocates and volunteers engaging in mental health education.
The objective is to raise awareness about mental health issues among people, mobilize efforts in their support and to bring attention to its major effects on people’s life worldwide. In some countries, this day is part of the larger Mental Illness Awareness Week.
The day provides an opportunity for people to talk about mental health issues and the measures needed to make mental healthcare easily achievable and accessible so that those with the illness could live better lives.
It is an annual event created to promote worldwide mental health education and the social stigma associated with mental health. The stigma against mental health has disrupted the lives of many by making it more difficult for them to seek help. Many with mental health illness have faced a variety of problems, ranging from isolation to uncertainty about where to get help and to rely on the support of family and friends.
Medical experts have contended that even though the stigma associated with mental health has substantially decreased over the years, there are still many myths surrounding it, leading to the illness getting a negative reputation. They have argued that the prejudice and discrimination of mental illness are as disabling as the illness itself.
The disease has undermined people attaining their personal goals and dissuades them from pursuing effective treatments. Further, the lack of understanding coupled with misunderstanding makes it hard for people with mental illnesses to be open about the issues they face.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, every year, one in five adults in the United States or 63.8 million Americans have experienced mental illnesses. Data from the World Health Organization revealed that approximately 750 million people are suffering from such illness, thus placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill health worldwide.
Mental illness is a structural-functional disorder of the brain that inhibits one’s ability to cope with life, to manage the everyday issues and to choose correct solutions to personal problems. Mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, affects people to think rationally and obey the conventional behavioral standards.
In Guyana, mental illness affects nearly one in four people, with women and youths accounting for over 60 percent. However, less than 10 percent are being treated and four in 10 have attempted suicide.
Although treatment is available, yet nearly two-thirds of the people in the country with mental disorders do not seek medical help because of the stigma and discrimination from the public. The government as well as society must help to end the stigmatization against people with mental illness.
Although mental illness is among the leading causes of disability in the country, yet less than one percent of the health budget is allocated to cure it and there is less than one hospital bed reserved for mental illness per 10,000 people.
No matter what its resource constraints are, the government should take a comprehensive approach and improve the mental condition of its people. It would require resources, but it must be done to improve the well-being of those affected by mental health.
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