Monday, October 10, 2011

The Great Push: Investing in mental health

By Akindman


The theme for Mental Health Day, 2011 is "The Great Push: Investing in mental health."
This year, the day hopes to enhance discussions on mental disorders, and to encourage investments in prevention, treatment and promoting awareness of mental illnesses.

What is Mental Health?

Sound mental health is not merely a reference to disease-free existence; it is a state of well-being when an individual is able to realize his, or her, full potential, is able to handle life’s stresses and is able to contribute positively towards society.

Mental illness is a universal malady. According to World Health Organization’s statistics for 2002, 154 million people across the globe suffer from depression.

Mental Health is an umbrella term referring to the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of individuals with mental diseases.

This day promotes open discussion of mental disorders, and investments in prevention, promotion and treatment services. The treatment gap for mental, neurological and substance use disorders is formidable especially in poor resource countries.

Mental, behavioral and neurological disorders are common in all countries around the world, causing immense agony and staggering economic and social costs. People with any disorder are mostly subjected to an isolated social life, poor life quality and higher death rates.

Mental Health – Global Priority
Mental health is increasingly endorsed as a significant aspect in terms of the overall well-being of the individual. Mental health issues are a global priority and it is imperative to address issues pertaining to it at the earliest and in an effective and efficacious manner.

Integration of Mental Health into the Primary Care Setting
This day encourages more transparent discussion of illnesses, and investments in prevention and treatment services.
The World Health Organization has identified following 7 reasons for including mental health into the primitive care structure:
  • The burden of mental disorders is immense. They create a substantial personal burden for affected persons and their families, and they create magnificent economic and social hardships that affect the society entirely.
  • The treatment gap for mental disorders is huge. There is a substantial gap between the prevalence of mental disorders and the quantity of people undergoing treatment.
  • Mental and physical health issues are interlinked. Integrated primary care services affirm that people are provided with the fair treatment.
  • When mental health is clubbed with primary care, people can get mental health services close to vicinity. It also enhances mental health promotion and community outreach.
  • Primitive care for mental health attention is less expensive for patients, communities and governments alike.
  • Primary care for mental health dignifies respect of human rights.
  • Primary care for mental health asserts good health outcomes specifically when collaborate with a network of services at secondary stage and in the community.


Inclusion of mental health within the primitive care system can yield more fruitful results in following manners:
  • Diagnosing for mental disorders results in improved patient outcomes only when appropriate care detection is followed.
  • Increasing referrals to behavioral health provider specialist with added supports may lead to enhance follow-through and outcomes.
  • Imparting Physician education.
  • Care needs to be streamlined and based at evidence-based approaches.

Meanwhile it is imperative to ensure that there are clearly defined principles and steps regarding the line of treatment that should be offered to the general practitioners and primary care workers. Following the initial treatment by primary workers further referrals for complex mental health issues can be sent to psychiatrists and psychologists with specialization.

Polices Must be Designed and Implemented
Thus, policies are required to be structured and implemented by the government. This would mean that involvement of government is required and these problems need to be included into the health regulations of general nature which should be included with medical, physical, psychological and mental health concerns. Hence advocacy is required and it acts as an important aspect of mental health. We would need to sensitize the leadership, health institutions, organizations and primary care workers about the necessity of integration of these two aspects of health. This can be summarized as follows as has also been recommended by the WHO as guidelines for including mental health in primary care:
  • Plan and policy should be framed to implement primary care for mental health.
  • The changes should be properly advocated.
  • Adequate training needs to be imparted besides allocation of tasks that are important.
  • Sensitization at various levels is essential.
  • Collaboration is needed between government and NGOs to work in primary health care system.
  • There needs to be adequate earmarking of financial and human resources to ensure the availability of services to maximum number of individuals.

Interventions Needed
Simple and less expensive interventions should be provided with primary importance. Some of the interventions that need to be incorporated include:
  • Early intervention within schools by school counselors and pediatricians.
  • Provision of support to children through education and skill building programs.
  • Promotional event pertaining to mental health in schools.
  • Specialized support services for women and elderly that cater to their needs.


Community program to create awareness and remove trauma associated with mental health problems.
The identification of need for inclusion of services is specifically required within the context of a big and voluminous country where dearth of professionals leads to millions of people without treatment that they urgently require. A step in the direction of incorporation would be beneficial to all – patients, their families, mental health experts, medical experts, non-medical and non-governmental bodies working in the sector for the advocacy of the overall health and prosperity of the individual and hence the human race at large.


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