Monday, September 16, 2013

We should pay attention to mental health

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 15 September 2013

Whenever government makes plans on health, whether at national or county level, technocrats focus on the conditions that result in the largest numbers of deaths at that level, the so-called top causes of mortality.
Obviously, this is an important approach aimed at reducing unnecessary deaths in the population before embarking on improving quality of life.

Over time, therefore, we are supposed to witness less preventable deaths, ensuring that a sizeable healthy population is available for national development. Government health reports are therefore likely to contain information on such killers as HIV-related conditions, diarrhoea and vomiting in children, malaria, respiratory infections and trauma. As long as the data collected is accurate, it is a useful planning tool.

The data on mortality however is grossly inaccurate, leading to problems in identifying and planning priorities. Mental illnesses are rarely cited as causes of death, leading planners and citizens to believe that mental conditions cannot cause death. This is a fallacious assumption that needs to be laid to rest.

How do mental illnesses kill?

Firstly, the final common pathway for most severe mental disorders is suicide. This week, the world marked the global suicide prevention day on Tuesday. According to the World Health Organisation, most people who attempt and commit suicide suffer from severe mental illnesses that thus increase their risk of suicide. Conditions such as major depressive or bipolar disorders and schizophrenia are leading causes of suicide, though major life stresses too can cause one to contemplate suicide.

Unfortunately, even when it is obvious that a person died from suicide, this information is hardly ever indicated on death certificates and other health documents. One is therefore unlikely to find any serious statistics on the rates of suicide in this country, causing policy-makers to ignore this important cause of death especially among the youth and the elderly members of our society.

Secondly, another major cause of death in this country is through road traffic crashes. Although we do not have much research evidence, it is plausible that many drivers involved in these crashes suffer from mental disorders that alter their thinking and concentration to such an extent that they become dangerous to other road users. Conditions such as drug abuse and dependence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, impulse control disorders, and even depression and bipolar disorders could impair an individual’s ability to drive safely when untreated.

Once again, programme planners rarely associate these problems with mental disorders, leading to fragmented planning that does not take into consideration the root causes. The misconception that mental illnesses are benign conditions leads to neglect of the mental health sector, with nationwide implications.

Many people have the misconception that mentally ill individuals are very easy to identify. It is as if mental illness gets inscribed on the patient’s forehead! The truth of the matter is that only a small fraction of mental illnesses present with dramatic behavioural symptoms that are obvious to all observers. Most of them suffer in silence without anyone knowing about it.

Mental illnesses kill, and their prevention and treatment actually saves lives! 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine.; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

1 comment:

  1. A Psychiatrist deals with psychological sickness as well as other types of psychological health conditions or pressures and is qualified in working with this type of diseases. Other types of training that the physician may have gone through would be for psychiatric treatment, actions treatment, whether it is intellectual or not does not really issue and finally psychoanalysis. The work that these physicians do is to find the cause of the psychological problem and tell you how to cure it. Many a periods, it finishes up that the individual will need some kind of psychological medication to cope with as well as, but there are periods that the psychological problem has turned to some kind of too difficult.

    Psychiatrist Sydney


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