THE World Health Organisation stresses that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness.
Our culture compounds the situation, it does not recognise (among others) stress, depression, bereavement as health matters that need a doctor or attention with the same measure, as say Covid-19. Moreover, suicide is classified as a taboo, but at times is seemingly the only way out for people struggling with their mental health.
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health.
Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions. Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves striking a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.
Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.
Although the term mental health is in common use, many conditions that doctors recognise as psychological disorders have physical roots.
Everyone has some risk of developing a mental health disorder, no matter their age, sex, income, or ethnicity. Social and financial circumstances, biological factors, and lifestyle choices can all shape a person’s mental health.
Continuous social and economic pressure is one of the leading causes of disruption of mental health in Zimbabwe.
People should look out for the following as possible signs of a mental health disorder:
withdrawing from friends, family, and colleagues,
avoiding activities that they would normally enjoy,
sleeping too much or too little,
eating too much or too little,
having consistently low energy,
using mood-altering substances, including alcohol and nicotine, more frequently,
displaying negative emotions,
being unable to complete daily tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal,
having persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly,
thinking of causing physical harm to themselves or others,
A person coping with mental health difficulties will usually need to make changes to their lifestyle to facilitate wellness. Such changes might include reducing alcohol intake, sleeping more, and eating a balanced, nutritious diet.
People may need to take time away from work or resolve issues with personal relationships that may be causing damage to their mental health.
Suicidal thoughts can plague anyone regardless of age, gender, or social status. Commonly linked to depression, there is no foolproof indicator of suicidal tendencies. Many people suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, hide them quite well.
Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behaviour is complex, and there is no single cause.
The main risk factors for suicide are:
Depression, other mental disorders, or substance use disorder
A history of suicide attempts
Family history of a mental disorder or substance use
Family history of suicide
Exposure to family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
Presence of guns or other firearms in the home
Having recently been released from prison or jail
lExposure, either directly or indirectly, to others’ suicidal behaviour, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities
Stressful life events (such as the loss of a loved one, legal troubles, or financial difficulties) and interpersonal stressors (such as shame, harassment, bullying, discrimination, or relationship troubles) may contribute to suicide risk, especially when they occur along with suicide risk factors.
A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population. According to WHO — for each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Suicides are preventable. Suicides and suicide attempts have a ripple effect that impacts on families, friends, colleagues, communities and societies. Much can be done to prevent suicide at individual, community and national levels.
Family and friends are often the first to recognise the warning signs of suicide, and they can take the first step toward helping a loved one find mental health treatment.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I’ve noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions you can ask:
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen to make you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say that helps:
“You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
“You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
Mental health awareness in our culture is necessary so that we start the discussion; it has to be recognised as a real matter. Be your brothers’ keeper, save a life.
* Dr T Simango can be contacted on [email protected] Book an appointment at www.9thavenuesurgery.co.zw