Feb 23, 2009, 8:29 AM
Mental health is how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad or stressed sometimes. But with a mental illness, these feelings do not go away and are severe enough to interfere with your daily life. It can make it hard to meet and keep friends, hold a job or enjoy your life.
Mental illnesses are common - they affect about one out of five in most families. These disorders - depression, phobias, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many others - are real diseases that you cannot will or wish away. Fortunately, they are often treatable. Medicines and therapy can improve the life of most people with mental illnesses.
There is a real need to deal with mental health problems of people with chronic physical illnesses, and physical care of mental health consumers through a continued and integrated care. About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14 and about 20% of the world's children and adolescents are estimated to have mental disorders or problems.
One of the major problems confronting the mentally ill people is that, the moment they become mentally ill, some of them are faced with discrimination and are even stigmatized. The necessary attention needed is often not offered to them and, as a result, this can worsen the sickness.
There is also huge inequity in the distribution of skilled human resources for mental health across the world. As the world prepares to mark World Mental Health Day on 10th October 2010, governments, donors and groups representing mental health workers, patients and their families need to work together to increase mental health services, especially in low - and middle - income countries. This is so because the financial resources needed are relatively modest.
Mental health should be high on government's agenda with an adequate budget put in place to address the plight of the mental ill. We should all care for the mentally ill.
"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."