The Giving Capsules: Let’s gift ourselves awareness on Mental Health Education


Baptista is the Executive Director of ProHumane Afrique International.  ProHumane is a charitable, development & think thank organization working with communities & individuals to create sustainable solutions to transform communities through diverse pro-poor initiatives. Pro-poor initiatives are initiatives that help to alleviate poverty. Baptista is a realist, affable, simple and humane. You can reach her via e-mail on [email protected]  and follow this conversation on all our social media sites: Linked-In/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram: ProHumane Afrique International.  Call or WhatsApp: +233(0)262213313. Hashtag: #behumane #thegivingcapsules #prohumaneafriqueint  #fowc

I understand your pain, Trust me, I do. I’ve seen people go from the darkest moments in their lives to living a happy, fulfilling life. You can do it too. I believe in you. You are not a burden. You will never be a burden” – Sophie Turner.

 There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t. “Mental health problems do not define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, you are not the rain” as put forward by Matt Haig.

 This writing was inspired by a distress call I received as a result of a childhood neighbor taking his own life. I have known this gentleman for over a decade and little did I know mental health issues could be a challenge. It’s great for us all to gift ourselves some education on mental health. I envisage in this write up providing some awareness on the subject matter.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Ghana’s situational analysis, it was estimated that of the 21.6 million people living in Ghana then, 650,000 are suffering from a severe mental disorder and a further 2,166, 000 are suffering from a moderate to mild mental disorder. The treatment gap is 98% of the total population expected to have a mental disorder. According to the World Bank, Ghana’s population stands at 29.77million as of 2018. Am wondering what percentage ratio matches this description currently?

Mental illness can affect anyone irrespective of race, gender or personal characteristics. According to R. Anokye in the knowledge of mental health legislation in Ghana, it is estimated that one in four persons worldwide is classified at some point in their life as persons with mental illness. Nearly 46% of the total population in the United States at some point in time qualifies to be classified as persons with mental illness. In Ghana, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 13% of Ghanaians suffer from a mental disorder of those, 3% from a severe mental disorder and the other 10% suffer from a moderate to mid mental disorder.  In Ghana, the Mental Health Act (MHA) was passed in 2012 and seeks to protect persons with mental illness. This act is very useful and covers not only the right of patients and on how to safeguard or protect an individual’s rights. It also covers situations where one can be taken to a hospital against his or her will and on occasions when one can be treated against his or her will.

Even though there are legislative instruments that cater for persons with mental illness which are in the form of Metal Health Acts, there is continuous discrimination and stigmatization against persons with mental illness and in some cases too knowledge among health workers’ in Ghana is scanty.  The study recommended among other things that, regular in-service training programs and refresher courses and workshops be conducted to educate and enlighten all health workers on mental health legislation in the provision of mental healthcare. So I ask, how much do we all know about mental health illness?

Mental health services in Ghana are available at most levels of care. However, the majority of care is provided through specialized psychiatric hospitals (close to the capital and servicing only small proportion of the population), with relatively less government provision and funding for general hospital and primary health care based services. The few community-based services being provided are private WHO alerted.

Mental health embraces our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Mental health problems are common but help is available according to People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

What are the early warning signs we need to start looking out for; not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.

Looking at mental health and wellness, positive mental health allows people to: realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively and make meaningful contributions to their communities.  For us to learn to maintain positive health we need to do these; getting professional help if you need it, connecting with others, staying positive, getting physically active, helping others, getting enough sleep and developing coping skills.

What then are the types of mental illness we can gift ourselves awareness on? Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder is one of them, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse disorders.

 Emotional and mental health is important because it’s a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving.

So if everyone can at some point suffer this fate, do we have any of these conditions seen to be or considered as the hardest mental illness to live with? Borderline Personality Disorder is considered the most “difficult” to treat. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is defined by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning.

 Can mental illness be triggered and possibly can trigger that.  Mental illness itself occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors – such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event – which can influence, or trigger, an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.

 What is a mentally healthy person like? Good mental health is characterized by a person’s ability to fulfill a number of key functions and activities, including the ability to learn, the ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions, the ability to form and maintain good relationships with others.

 What is poor mental health? Simply put, this is when our mental health is not what we would want it to be. Finding it difficult to manage how we think, feel, act with respect to daily stresses could be a sign of poor mental health. Having continuous episodes of mental ill-health could indicate a problem.

 We can consider these five warning signs of mental illness, long-lasting sadness or irritability, extremely high and low moods, excessive fear, worry, or anxiety, social withdrawal and dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits. Wondering if mental illness can be permanent, I found out that, the negative effects of mental illness are, for a large proportion of people, ongoing and pervasive. Mental illness is most often not ‘permanent’ in the sense that its effects are not consistent over time, though the pattern of impairment and functioning can persist for many years.  We can practice these to help support our mental health. Let’s talk about our feelings to trusted family and friends. Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with things when you feel troubled. Let’s all learn to keep active, eat well, drink sensibly, keep in touch, ask for help when we need to and not see that as a sign of weakness but strength, take a break when you need to rejuvenate yourself. One of the essence of leaves which some employees take for granted and in some civil service set up in our country, many prefer selling or trading their leave days for cash. I will advise that we gift ourselves this generosity and opt to planning and taking our leave when need be. Perhaps, getting human resource professionals to put policies in place disallowing people from trading their leave will be welcome news to start with. We can engage in something we’re good at and enjoy keeping that routine if need be.

On whether mental illness is curable? Treatment can involve both medications and psychotherapy, depending on the disease and its severity. At this time, most mental illnesses cannot be cured, but they can usually be treated effectively to minimize the symptoms and allow the individual to function in work, school, or social environments. Feeling good about ourselves, not feeling overwhelmed by emotions, such as fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt, or anxiety, lasting and satisfying personal relationships, feel comfortable with other people and being able to laugh at ourselves and with others could be seen as some qualities of a mentally healthy person. To enable us talk to mentally ill persons, we can, set time aside with no distractions, let them share as much or as little as they want to, not try to diagnose or second guess their feelings, keep questions open ended, talk to them about wellbeing and listen carefully to what they tell us, after-all new research from others around the world suggests mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their life. This should tell you that, we all may be mentally ill possibly.

It is great and good to seeing your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues enjoy mental health as this refers to our emotional and psychological state, our social well–being and how we feel about ourselves and interact with others. However, mental health is not the same as mental illness, although poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illnesses. We can explore other holistic approaches to treatment aside medication.  Thankfully, those who continue to research how to treat mental illness without medication may discover some very sound alternative treatment approaches to try. Meditation, yoga, fitness and nutrition, acupuncture as well as massage therapy can be useful.

You can also join the call to pledge to support #mental health awareness and education.

“Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all” – Erik Erikson

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