BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for June, 2018

Today, our discussion is about mental health- a very important topic in every society, yet often shied away from due to stigma. According to Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), mental health is a significant part of our overall health and includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It influences how we think, feel, act, handle stressful situations, relate to others, and make decisions.

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Here are some facts and statistics from World Health Organization that emphasize the impacts and implications of mental health:

  • About 20% of adolescents worldwide suffer mental health disorders or problems, usually beginning at the age of 14
  • Mental illnesses such as alcohol and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • Approximately 800,000 people die from suicide yearly, mostly due to mental disorders such as misuse of alcohol and drugs
  • Disasters impact mental health and psychosocial well-being given that rates of mental disorders tend to increase afterwards
  • Mental disorders are risk factors for other diseases and injuries
  • Stigmatization, isolation and discrimination of people faced by mental illnesses and their families prevent them from seeking help
  • Mentally ill people are sometimes violated and deprived their right as humans through physical restraint, seclusion and denial of basic needs and privacy
  • Financial and human resources are insufficient to meet the growing needs of mental healthcare

Mental health disorder or illness is used to describe a wide range of disorders that affect and influence the mind including mood, thoughts, comprehension, attitude and actions. Some common examples of mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, panic attack, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders, psychosis, self-harm, suicide ideation, gambling and addictions. Mental health disorders are associated with stress, and the symptoms vary from mild to severe. Globally, similar types of disorders are reported across countries and cultures with neuropsychiatric disorders being the leading cause of disability in young people.

Despite the availability of effective treatments for mental disorders, it is wrongly believed that they are untreatable. People with mental disorders are also perceived to be difficult and dumb. However, these assumptions are false, unfair and uninformed and consequently lead to abuse, rejection, shame, fear and isolation and prevent people from seeking the help and support they need.

Sadly, some regions of the world still lack the required resources for mental health. For instance; low-income countries have 0.05 psychiatrists and 0.42 nurses per 100 000 people which translate to 170 times and 70 times less than what is obtainable in high-income countries. Dearth of qualified and adequate human resources for mental health such as psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers constitute major barriers to the availability and provision of treatment and care in low- and middle-income countries. Other barriers include non-prioritization of mental health in the public health agenda, lack of funding, decentralization of mental health services, lack of integration within primary care and lack of public mental health leadership.

In conclusion, mental illnesses like most illnesses are preventable and treatable. Depending on your location or region, resources, help and support are available and accessible online and onsite, so, don’t shy away from getting help.

The World Health Organization identifies and recognizes suicide as a major public health problem to which about 800,000 deaths is attributed worldwide, annually. For each of these individuals who take their lives, there are much more people who attempt suicide. Among adolescents and young adults aged 15-29 years, suicide was the second leading cause of death in 2015. Suicide is a global phenomenon which occurs in every country and region of the world with its most significant predisposing factor being a previous failed attempt. Despite being mostly associated with high-income countries, approximately 78% of global suicides in 2015 occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The most common methods of suicide around the world are ingestion of pesticides, hanging and use of firearms. In fact, up to 30% of global suicides happen by the use of pesticide to poison oneself, especially in rural agricultural areas where these chemicals are easily accessible.

Suicide, like every loss and death, is a tragedy that affects families, friends, communities and countries at large. It leaves many questions and long-lasting effects on the people left behind. People commit suicide for many different reasons. There is a well-established link between suicide and mental health disorders such as depression and drug or alcohol misuse. In addition, many suicides happen in moments of crisis, pain and thoughtlessness when people feel overwhelmed, swamped and unable to carry on with life. Loss of loved one, failure in the ability to deal with life stresses, financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness are some of the many reasons why people have taken their own lives, with hopes to leave it all behind. Furthermore, factors such as war, conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, meltdown, failure, loss, discrimination, loneliness and isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior. Rates of suicide are highest amongst vulnerable groups who are more likely to experience the above situations such as refugees and migrants; persons who are perceived as different for any reason and prisoners.

It is important to note that suicides can be prevented using well-timed, evidence-based and effective interventions. To ensure the reduction of suicide rates globally, national suicide prevention strategies must be comprehensive, multi-dimensional, efficient and sustainable. Being a complex problem, understanding the most common reasons for suicide as well as the common suicide methods are important for developing effective prevention strategies. The following are measures that can be taken at population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts:

  • Regulating access to suicide aids such as pesticides and firearms
  • Establishing drug and alcohol policies to reduce misuse
  • Support, follow-up and care for people who have attempted suicide
  • Training health workers to effectively assess and manage suicidal behavior
  • Promoting awareness to erase stigma surrounding depression, mental illness and suicide so as to enable people seek help without shame and prejudice
  • Identifying, treating and caring for people with mental health problems, substance use disorders, chronic pain and emotional distress

Currently, over one billion people around the world are unable to access the basic primary healthcare they need. Common reasons for this inability to access healthcare include unavailability of care, poor quality of care, limited number of healthcare providers and high cost of healthcare. The high cost of healthcare particularly presents a significant barrier because an estimated 100 million people are forced into poverty yearly when they pay out-of-pocket for health services.  When more people become poor, income inequality and other inequities across the world increase- the very problems that public and global health are trying to solve. To avoid these systemic problems, which are social determinants of health, an all-encompassing global vigorous health financing systems must be created to achieve universal health coverage (UHC).

Healthcare financing is a system of providing prepaid collective funds for the delivery of vital health services to prevent placing unnecessary financial burdens on families. The importance of health financing systems cannot be over emphasized. It is essential for achieving universal health coverage (UHC), a World Health Organization’s sustainable development initiative that aims to ensure everyone everywhere has the ability to access essential quality health services without any financial barriers. The successful attainment of UHC is dependent on the understanding of past and present trends of health financing, and using this information to predict and implement better financial methods for the future.

World Health Organization continues to promote UHC in various countries by:

  • Supporting the development, implementation and monitoring of national health policies, strategies and plans
  • Supporting the provision and availability of equitable and affordable patient-oriented health services
  • Facilitating access to affordable, safe and effective medicines and health technologies through health plans, accreditation and subsidies
  • Strengthening the health information systems and evidence based policies in order to provide information and facts on health-related matters
  • Ensuring the existence of resilient and comprehensive health systems in place including having motivated healthcare workers, appropriate funding, safe medicines, research, and information systems

Thanks to globalization and technology, mobility around the world has become very rampant and can happen in a matter of hours. Travelling internationally has the capacity to pose various risks to people’s health, depending on the health status of the traveler, the health conditions of people encountered in the course of the journey and that of the people in the country being traveled to. Some travelers may experience unexpected and substantial fluctuations in altitude, humidity, microbial biome, and temperature, which can result in changes in their health status. Furthermore, detrimental changes such as poor ventilation, hygiene, accommodation, water supply, sanitation and medical services encountered during travel can result in serious health risks. For these reasons, international travelers should always be careful and concerned about their health and safety especially because of the increased likelihood to contract infections or diseases that may be uncommon in their home country.

Most countries have resources for travelers which gives important information on current endemics, epidemics and pandemics in other countries as well as how to access international health facilities and remain safe and healthy during the travel period. In the US and Canada, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provide lots of information and resources for travelers. These resources are important to review and seriously consider before embarking on any journey internationally. Some of the resources that may be available in various countries include:

  1. Notices

Health notices outline potential health risks in different countries to travelers and recommend ways to avoid or reduce them. Notices may also provide country-specific information on safety and security, local laws, customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues.

  1. Vaccinations and travel health kit

A health care provider may recommend vaccination against one or more diseases before travel, depending on the destination. Travelers are encouraged to visit their doctors before travel and to carry a basic travel health kit in case of emergencies, irrespective of the travel destination.

  1. Clinic and medical care in other countries

Medical practices, health insurance, access to healthcare and services, health standards and infection control measures are usually different for various countries. Travellers should be well informed about how these factors differ in the countries they’re travelling to, and what to do to remain healthy and safe.

  1. Foods and drinks

Food poisoning, flu and travelers’ diarrhea are some of the most common forms of illness in travelers. These can be prevented by avoiding unfamiliar foods or trying them with caution and ensuring meals are cooked and eaten following proper hygiene

  1. Travelling with special needs

Pregnant women, children, older people and persons with disabilities may require special care, different travel needs and medication during travel. When applicable, travelers are encouraged to read up on the information necessary to minimize risks and stay healthy while travelling.