B-METRO COMMENT: Need for more education on mental health conditions

IN recent weeks we have carried articles on persons seemingly afflicted by mental conditions, and living in solitude.

Our goal remains that of shining the spotlight on the plight of such individuals so that society and institutions that address mental health issues may come to their rescue. It should be noted, however, that mental health issues affect a large part of our population. It is not all people suffering from one form of mental challenge or another that need to be confined to institutions. However, it would seem the issue of stigma is one that has affected many families with different beliefs coming in the way when it comes to assisting the affected.

We believe there is a need for more education and therefore, more acceptance of mental challenges as an illness just like high blood pressure and diabetes. Unbeknown to many, stress is a mental health condition that if left unaddressed may deteriorate into something more serious.

Studies have shown that many in our society have very high stress levels, with the working population up there in terms of stress. Economic challenges have added pressure on many people as they struggle to make ends meet under the difficult circumstances, putting many under pressure that has seen them fail to cope. These are some of the causes of mental illness.

It would seem, however, that the common belief in our society is that if someone suffers from mental illness, they would have been bewitched after stealing or refusing to take up their traditional spiritual calling. It is such views that divide families once a member shows signs of mental illness.

One of the cases that we carried of a man from Mawabeni, the man now leads a reclusive life, with his family believing that he could have been bewitched while some believe that the family had to carry out some traditional rites for him.

No one has certified him mentally unstable but the community treats him differently due to his different lifestyle though everyone agrees in that community that the man was immensely talented. Just this previous week, we carried an article in which a former educationist could lose his house over bills that keep piling up as he lives alone in a house surrounded by overgrown grass.

The neighbours believe he is mentally challenged but it would appear he has never been to a mental health institution. We believe there should be known standard procedure to handle people suspected to be suffering from mental illness so that they are assisted to deal with their condition. It is our belief that these mena��s conditions have spawned a lot of stress on their families hence extending the cycle of mental health problems.

People need to know that mental health patients can be successfully rehabilitated so that they do not hesitate to take their relatives to hospitals. Also, the mother to one of the men said the family did not have money to take the man to hospital for an evaluation so that it is established if he needed to be put on mental health treatment. We need to know more so that we can do more to assist those afflicted with mental health problems in our communities.

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