Are they related? Is one linked to the other? We as humans face stresses almost on a daily basis: some self-induced; others from factors beyond our control such as the current pandemic, misfortunes, sicknesses, unemployment, debt, poverty, deaths, grief, etc.

Mental health, however, is an illness but can also be induced by the persistenc of the above factors. On the other hand, an underlying mental health disorder can be aggravated by the above factors and thereby setting us on an uncollectable tail spin.

We, as humans, live with stress and face various levels of mental health issues on a regular basis. According to Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Addictions (CAMH), 1 in 5 Canadians has mental health or addiction problems, and by age 40, 1 in every 2 Canadian would have had mental health issues. Some 70% of mental health and addiction problems start in childhood and adolescence and people between ages15 and 24 have the most prevalent mental health and addiction issues.

Despite this reality, many of us are not even taught to recognize mental health symptoms or how to cope with stresses or mental health. In fact, stress and mental health, “diseases of the mind” are stigmatized, labelled and shoved under the carpet. It is a taboo to mention, to admit to them when person is suffering from such problems. Worst still, others often call mentally ill persons all kinds of derogatory and inhuman names.

Some people think it is the “weak” who suffer mental illnesses. Therefore, many people suffer their stresses and mental troubles alone and in silence. People just don’t talk about it. Families hide their loved ones who suffer mental illnesses until it is too late.

Reality:
We’re individuals with different genetic makeup and differential factors impacting on us always.Therefore, many of us would suffer differential levels of mental health issues and stress at any given time. Also, same or similar traumatic or stressful events affect us differently, so our stress levels will differ at any time. It doesn’t mean the those impacted are weaker than the rest.

Coping?
Many people have different coping skills to deal with their stresses or mental health issues. Some rely on family and friends, others rely on their faith whilst others turn to the use of substances such alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, street drugs and other dangerous substances numb their grief and mental pain, thus leading to addictions and associated medical problems.

The Difference?
Why do some people survive stress “unharmed” while whilst others suffer severe mental health issues or turn to drugs? What makes the difference? Oh really? Why do some people suffer cancer and others don’t? Why do some people die young whilst others age before they die? Why are some people successful when others are not?

Life is complicated and mysterious! We are similar but also unique! Some are more resilient, more supported, more resourceful, knowledgeable, experienced and skillful than others.

Impacts of Stigmatization?
Stigmatization of people’s stresses and mental health does more harm than good. Stigma deters many people from seeking help or support from others when needed. Stigma prevents people from accessing early intervention; people hide their stresses and mental health. Stigma shames mental health and causes fear in people. Stigma woesens people’s mental state and exacerbates the use of substances.

Besides acute short of psychiatrists and a 98% treatment gap in mental health disease, stigma is reported to one of the biggest barriers to accessing mental health Ghana. People health people in Ghana are extremely stigmatized and their human rights violated due to cultural and religious beliefs.

By the way, why is it “normal” stigmatize mental health? Why are physical illnesses not stigmatized to that extent? And is it shameful to be ill? Why?

Many people have had their lives ruined by mental health and substance uses in our families and communities. Some people use substances to numb their problems or life stressors but end up getting addicted or have their situations worsened.

At times drugs are the only option because some people have no reliable and trusted support network. Victims of mental health delay seeking professional help because of fear and shame. Our actions have cause and effect on people’s behaviours. Let us be educated, be considerate and mindful of what we say and do to others.

Our words and deeds should inspire, encourage than demoralize and diminish people’s confidence and state of mind.

If you have nothing nice to say keep your words to yourself. If you cannot help or support someone do not add to their grief or troubles.

Recognize mental health and stress as a normal part of life. They are nothing strange or unique to any individual. Recognise your own stressors, check in with your family members and pay particular attention to children and any changes in behaviours. Reach out and be supportive, be kind.

Speak to someone you trust about your stresses, practice relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques to deal with your stress. Do something you enjoy (music, movies, reading etc). Check out apps!

If things become unbearable speak to a mental health professional, a counselor or family physician or a knowledgeable non-judgemental individual. Stay away from using substances to deal with your stress.

Stay healthy, eat well, sleep well and spend time with the people who love and care about you most. Live freely. Remember those who truly love you will always do. Love and care for yourself!

Happy Mental Health Month. Keep practicing recommended COVID-19 social distancing and infection prevention protocols.

Best,
Akosua G
Ontario Canada
May 08, 2020

References:

https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/gallery/2020/feb/04/shackling-of-ghanas-mentally-ill-in-pictures

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.directrelief.org/2019/07/glimmers-of-hope-for-people-in-ghana-with-mental-illness/amp/

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