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INVESTING IN MENTAL HEALTH – THE ROLE OF THE INDIVIDUAL, EMPLOYER & GOVERNMENT

Adeola Adeyemi

Adeola Adeyemi

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Mental Health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

It is an integral part of your capacity to lead a fulfilling life, including the ability to form and maintain relationships, to study, work or pursue leisure interests, and also for decision making. If your mental well-being is neglected, these functions can be adversely compromised, affecting you, your family and the society at large.

No one is immune to the risk of mental health – 1 in 4 persons will have a mental illness in their lifetime. Because anyone can be affected irrespective of age, gender, religion or socio-economic status, it is important that intentional steps be taken to invest in mental health.

It has been found that for every $1 spent on mental health for treatment such as counselling and medication, governments could receive a $4 return on their investments. However, investing in mental health is more than the bottom line, it involves paying attention to how individuals, businesses and governments are prioritizing action on mental health. It includes individual promotion and prioritization of mental health, businesses supporting the wellbeing of their employees, schools supporting their students and staff, and governments allocating resources to prevent and treat mental health conditions.

When we invest in mental health, it creates a ripple effect of returns right across our families, communities, businesses, economies and societies. Since its benefits are felt across board, it is the responsibility of everyone – communities, schools, employers and society as a whole – to tackle inaction on mental health.

 

Here are ways individuals, employees and governments can start investing in mental health:

 

INDIVIDUAL

This simple ABC approach will kickstart your journey:

  1. Be AWARE:

Knowing is the first step to solving a problem. Having the knowledge about the different mental health diseases, causes and symptoms; having a continuous awareness about self – your stressors, personality, strengths & weaknesses; and knowledge of requisite skills to adaptively cope with triggers is very important to guarding your mental health. To Increase your knowledge on mental health and self-awareness, invest in books, seminars, trainings and follow experts in that area such as @drgbonjubolaabiri @everythingmentalhealth @psychebabbleng@empathyspace.ng @chatwithdrtee@psych.wellnessng and of course, yours truly @talkmentalhealthnaija for firsthand information on mental health.

2. Be BOLD:

Summon courage and ASK FOR HELP when necessary. You know the symptoms based on your increased level of awareness.
If you observe any of these symptoms in yourself, close relatives or friends, please GET HELP. The Talk Mental Health Tribe is an avenue to get easy access to expert advice when you are experiencing concerns about your mental wellbeing. Click the link to join

3. Be COMPASSIONATE:

Show empathy to people who have mental illness, bearing in mind that it could happen to anyone. Understand that people have different strengths, and because a similar situation was easy peezy for you doesn’t mean it will be for the next person. So show compassion and empathy, and be the source of external strength to help them overcome.

 

EMPLOYER

People are the main drivers of a business and the economy at large. Any investment to ensure they are at their best by providing healthy work processes and experiences is paramount. Actively supporting employees’ mental health should not be seen as an exception but the rule, as it makes smart business sense. Turning a blind eye to your employees’ mental health will lead to disengaged employees, higher rate of absenteeism, and mistakes being made, all of which will affect your bottom line, making you spend even more.

 

  1. Promote an open-door policy: This is to make employees feel comfortable talking about any mental health struggles they might have, just like they can complain about physical health struggles. Therefore, create clear and well-defined communication channels and a workplace culture where your employee feels that they can ask for support without being ridiculed, subjected to unfair treatment or marginalised. By showing that you are sympathetic and willing to listen, you can encourage positive action and minimise the risks of employees taking long absences or deciding to leave their job.
  2. Invest in training: In addition to other health and safety trainings, mental health awareness training should be done on a regular basis to teach managers how to identify issues within their teams so they don’t miss opportunities for early intervention. Mental health first aid tips should also be taught. These trainings will also help to reduce the stigma related to mental health empowering people to speak up.
  3. Take action: Employees should not only know that they can and should speak up; but that something will be done about whatever issues they raise. So when employee discloses a mental health condition, seek to get a better understanding of how the condition affects them and what adjustments you can make within the work environment to support them such as creating an action plan, which takes into cognizance their triggers, how it can be minimised at work and what to do if they are very unwell.

 

GOVERNMENT

While we have established that everyone has a role in investing in mental health and wellness, governments have a lead role to play in reshaping the debate about mental health, addressing current barriers and shortcomings, and responding to the escalating burden of mental disorders especially in a developing nation like ours. They need to be at the forefront of investing in promotion, prevention, treatment, and recovery

Key actions that can be taken by the government include:

  1. Integrating mental health care into primary health care: This will help people see mental health as the same as any physical ailment; and easily access psychotherapy. Specialized secondary care should be for referral cases and mental health care should be integrated into primary health care, maternal and reproductive health care, paediatrics, and emergency medicine, so that the majority of persons with mental health needs can enjoy local access to treatment and care. Community-based rapid-response teams should also be instituted especially for young people experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  2. Investing in the training of personnel: The ratio of psychiatrists to the population, in low-income communities, is one psychiatrist for every two million inhabitants while in high income communities, the ratio is to one to every 12 000 inhabitants. A career in psychiatry and psychology should be encouraged amongst young people, as well as a continuous training for primary healthcare workers to enable them to detect and manage common mental health problems in community settings.
  3. Prioritization of funding for mental health in the national health budgets: This will support the mass dissemination of information, awareness and education about mental health and illness; subsidizing of insurance for individuals and families adversely affected by mental disorders and enhanced legal, social and financial protection for persons, families or communities adversely affected by mental disorders. It will also aid continuous research into improving treatment processes.

Lets all pull up our sleeves and get to work.

Happy World Mental Health Day.

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