MENTAL health is generally not understood. It is not well funded, could be managed, and is dealt with more from a reactionary standpoint. Compounding this situation is the inadequate allocation of resources for the treatment of mental illnesses.
The importance attached to this condition is often seen and felt only by those who are personally affected. Those with mental-health concerns or issues are usually seen as a “crazy” group that needs to be locked away, ignored or forgotten, and not as functioning or valued members of society.
A general premise is that persons with mental-health issues do not initially seek treatment, because when they start talking about their symptoms/feelings, they are seen as weak; trying to get attention; demon-possessed; or depending on the culture, the family had some affliction, or had committed some evil act that was now coming back to haunt them.
The stigma attached to mental illness results in loved ones of persons with mental-health issues overcompensating and attempting to conceal symptoms, because it is more acceptable to pretend those issues do not exist. This is generally done in an effort to blend into society, or be seen as “normal.” In some instances, persons with mental-health issues are viewed as “the crazy uncle” who the family feels needs protection from the world; and they behave this way not only because of the stigma attached to the sufferer’s condition, but also to preserve their place in society, or their family’s standing in society.
The result of these variables is that often when these symptoms are finally confronted, the person’s condition is too advanced to obtain treatment that would enable them to regain their status as a functioning member of society. This situation is often due to the lack of understanding of the issue, or the intolerance of some members of the treating community, or personal biases which affect the ability to identify and treat symptoms early.
A contributing factor to mental-health decompensation is overuse of alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant; it leads to an increase in depressed mood. If someone who is depressed consumes alcohol, it makes that person more depressed. This, in itself, can increase the risk of that person cultivating suicidal behaviours, including attempting or actually committing suicide.
Another prevalent factor in the society is that of intolerance to societal change, where some lack the understanding or receptiveness to persons who are getting into serious relationships at an earlier age. Compounding these factors are relationships with persons from different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, and the lack of adequate coping skills to navigate complex emotional situations.
Some solutions to addressing mental stability outside of the clinical setting can be achieved with familial support, as in educating our youth on the importance of self-worth, life, and empowering this demographic to understand that even beyond their current struggle, life is worth living. Another important factor is support for various age groups, such as teen/peer support, which allows for avenues to voice thoughts, feelings and struggles, and gain support from each other on how to deal with relationship issues, and parents/family responses to those issues.
In dealing with mental-health factors that are affected by alcohol use, it helps to recognise that one must first understand that the risk of addiction is increased by access to alcohol, and inability to differentiate casual use from dependency. Users of this substance often have a false sense of security, in that they think that because it is so easily accessible and is legal to use, the risk of dependency is less. Since it is culturally acceptable to consume alcohol to the point of being intoxicated, the assumption is that the person has a choice to continue this lifestyle.
First, it needs to be recognised that alcohol is a drug, and because it has the ability to cross the blood/brain barrier, it alters perception, judgement and mood. Usually, the alcoholic does not recognise that there is a problem until it is often too late.
Support systems such as Alcoholics Anonymous (for the user), Alanon (spousal support) and Alateen (support for the children) are necessary to improve one’s ability to understand, cope with, and obtain sobriety to improve the overall family dynamic, coping mechanisms, and re-integration into society.
Mental health is a societal issue; its management requires education, acceptance, willingness to support, and receptiveness to including the individuals afflicted with these symptoms, to ensure that they are not ostracised. In the absence of the foregoing, it widens the base, and increases inability to identify and effectively treat individuals with mental-health symptoms.
Medication ought not to be seen as the only treatment option: equally important is the society’s interaction with, and support for, individuals with complex and life-changing situations. Mental health for one is mental health for all.