World Mental Health Day 2016
During 2015, about 2,000 individuals required acute hospital care for serious mental health problems, mostly for brief spells lasting less than 15 days.
The majority sought help voluntarily or agreed to be admitted. However 400 individuals had to be admitted involuntarily due to the severity of their condition. These figures do not include many more who suffer in silence. These are not just numbers – these are people, families and individuals within our circles.
A society that respects itself should be “thinking” mental health daily. Investing in mental health provides a guaranteed return on investment. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that direct and indirect costs of mental ill-health may exceed four per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Apart from direct healthcare and social costs, mental illhealth pushes up the cost of treating other health problems.
Indirect costs include lack of employability, absenteeism and presenteeism (going to work and doing nothing); the substantial cost of informal care delivered by parents, spouses or partners; and the immeasurable intangible costs of emotional distress, pain, and stigma to whole families.
To get things right, one has to set priorities. The first priority is Child, Adolescent and Youth Mental Health. Untreated mental disorders in the young severely influences the overall personal development and achievements, impairs educational attainment and diminishes the potential of a fulfilling productive life. Other challenges include stigma, isolation and discrimination. The benefits of early identification are often jeopardised by delayed or lack of access to health care and education facilities. Early identification is the responsibility of family and all health and education professionals who encounter the youngester in the early years.
The second priority is better mental health at the workplace. Mental ill-health affects 20% of the working-age population at any given moment. Half of all employed persons will suffer a period of poor mental health during their working lifetime. Employers should understand that like any other illness, people with mental health problems may require days of absence from work for a period of time but then they can return to their employment.
Employers and employees must widen the agenda for better mental health at the workplace. Measures should include active promotion of mental health and well-being, ongoing risk assessment, with early detection and management of stress and mental health problems. This empowers employers and employees to take timely necessary action.
The third priority is intensive promotion of positive mental health and well-being at individual level and within families, organisations and communities. This means learning to relax and unwind; taking up more and regular leisure and pleasure activities; managing stress and not stressing others by our behaviour. Mental health literacy interventions should address target groups known to be at higher risk as well as the general public.
The fourth priority requires a reorganisation of the provision of mental health care services with a shift to foster more community support. These changes would allow earlier discharge and closer follow-up of acute patients. Emergency psychiatric services require a 24/7 crisis intervention team that can deal promptly with hospital and community psychiatric emergencies.
These four action priorities require significant financial outlay and human resource investment together with bold service re-engineering in health, education and social welfare systems.
Our economy and the sustainability of our existence as a successful nation today relies mainly if not solely on human brain capital. Mainstreaming mental health and “thinking” mental health daily is not an option. It is a national policy priority.
"The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that direct and indirect costs of mental ill-health may exceed four per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)"
Dr John M Cachia