EDITORIAL: Invest in mental health
According to an article produced by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), in the Caribbean and worldwide, mental health disorders are now recognised as the fifth major non-communicable disease and a major threat to health and economic development in the 21st century.
CARPHA goes on to state that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four persons globally will be affected by a mental disorder or neurological disorder in their lifetime and 450 million are affected by these disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and substance (e.g. alcohol, nicotine) dependency.
Further, mental health disorders are a leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Region. As such, this year’s World Mental Health Day, which was recently celebrated this month, focused on investments in mental health.
It has also been noted that the World Federation for Mental Health suggests that good mental health must be front and centre of every country’s response to and recovery from the present COVID-19 pandemic.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic is also affecting different people in different ways, and is having a major impact on persons’ mental health and well-being, including those persons who have existing mental illnesses. Persons with mental disorders often face stigma and discrimination, limitation of human rights, abuse, neglect and inadequate access to community-based treatment, care and support services. Addressing stigma and discrimination are important strategies in programmes for mental health disorders,” CARPHA notes.
“Investing in interventions designed to improve health can help reduce the burden of these illnesses. There are cost-effective interventions that Caribbean countries can implement to prevent and control mental illnesses. Scaled-up treatment for mental health disorders are likely to increase healthy life years, thus avoiding significant economic losses and social costs,” the agency adds.
Here in Barbados, Manager of the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA), Betty Hunte, recently brought attention to the issue, pointing out that greater focus needs to be placed on mental health, including ensuring that the necessary resources are available to safeguard the mental health and well-being of this nation.
Hunte said this is particularly important among the current and future employable persons in society, as this would help to maintain a solid platform on which the country can continue to build, both economically and socially. She was at the time delivering remarks during a virtual panel discussion to mark World Mental Health Day 2020, under the theme ‘Your Mental Health Matters, Let’s End the Stigma’.
Indeed, just as we pay so much attention to physical health and wellness, we must place the spotlight on mental well-being and we cannot continue to shove issues of mental illness under the carpet. We must see where we can invest in policies and programmes that will impact positively on the mental well-being of the populace. Indeed, we must adequately invest in the requisite resources to ensure that our population is healthy and happy in a holistic way.