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Mental Illness, a Global Health Issue

Sangu Delle presents in this talk one of the most powerful points on mental health I've heard in quite some time. I say this because I know the depths this West African brother of mine speaks of. Mental health in Africa carries with it a heavy burden and stigma—dare I say quite a similar weight that HIV/AIDS had in the mid 1990’s. But first, what is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

Mental ILLNESS is a global health issue, but the stigma upon it is a bigger concern and likely the ultimate barrier to understanding mental HEALTH in many countries today. Mental health is not a mental illness or disorder! The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as “health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these).” Thus, daily stress unattended to could be mental illness. Contrarily, on the US Health and Human Services website, mental health is defined as “... our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” The key difference between the two is that mental Illness is a part of mental health. Mental illness is undesirable, while mental health is the state of one’s health, mentally.

The World Health Organization presents that “one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”

Mental health is not just schizophrenia or having suicidal tendencies. It includes managing the daily stressors of life; your ability to do this determines your mental status. However, the national alliance on mental illness presents that “approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

I've had the privilege of teaching a Psychosocial Aspects of Mental Health 4000 level course at a state university for about two years now, and it's been a blessing educating public health students on the importance of mental health as a normal part of life. In the talk presented below, the speaker shares his personal experience with the stigma on mental health as a West African student in an American University. He also speaks of a friend who struggled with schizophrenia, and the unfavorable treatment he received from those who were supposed to be close friends. Listen and be encouraged to consider mental health as an important part of wellness.

Here’s the video for your viewing: There's no shame in taking care of your mental health

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