Recent events have brought to our attention the importance of good mental health. This encompasses the psychological, emotional, and social health of a person. Mental hygiene is a vital part of life and we are committed to ensuring that it is taken care of. It impacts the way we think, feel and act. It is a major factor in our decisions and relationships. Mental health is essential at all stages of life.
Globally, health psychologists consider an individual ‘healthy’ not because they are free of illness but when they feel healthy in their entirety. It is important to have good physical and mental health. For happiness and prosperity, it is important to invest in mental health.
A study found that people with mental illnesses have poorer physical health, and a life expectancy 25 years lower than the average. A person’s optimal functioning is dependent on a sound mental health.
A vast majority of the population does not have access, however, to mental health care, despite how important it is. They lack the necessary knowledge and resources. We are now facing a growing issue called “Mental Health Equality”.
What is Mental Health Equality ?
Mental Health Equality or Equity is the right of all people to receive quality health care, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or race, socioeconomic standing or sexual orientation. This includes prevention, treatment and recovery services for substance and mental use disorders. Unfortunately, because of the widespread discrimination, many people are denied mental health treatment. Either they don’t know or the treatment is out of reach.
This is what mental health inequality looks like today:
* According to a 2019 study, emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disparities already present in mental health access. In the United States for example, those who are marginalized or oppressed and have lower incomes find it harder to get treatment after depression.
* In low-and-middle-income countries, more than 75% of people suffering from mental disorders were found to receive no treatment.
* According to an report from Guardian, only 13 psychiatrists are available in Ghana for the 30 million residents. Lack of awareness often leads to the mental ill being chained up and receiving poor treatment.
The World Bank reports that countries spend less than 2% of their total health budgets on mental health.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, people of colour are less likely than other ethnic groups to receive counseling or therapy. Mental health professionals have also stigmatized the LGBTQ community. They were found unsupportive and less willing to meet their needs. Only 24% of the respondents to a survey for the general population accessed mental healthcare. Source: National LGBT Survey 2018
Why the Disparity in ?
Mental health is not always accessible to everyone. Here are some of the most common:
* Stigma Multiple research studies have shown that stigma is often a barrier to treatment for people with mental illnesses. Often, the stigma associated with mental illness prevents people from seeking treatment or acknowledging that they have a problem. Some people may be worried that disclosing a mental illness will lead to a negative work environment. Also, there is a fear that family members and friends will judge or avoid you. Stigma is a major barrier to accessing behavioral health services.
* Financial barriers:In most countries, insurance doesn’t cover psychotherapies. The cost of these treatments can be prohibitive, which discourages people from seeking mental health professionals.
* A shortage of Mental Health Professionals :Estimates indicate that there is a global shortage of mental healthcare professionals. This shortage is greater than in any other category. Rural areas and nations with low levels of development often lack mental health services. There are often long waiting lists for these services, so patients may have to wait months before they can get an appointment. A shortage of mental health professionals makes it expensive to seek help.
Lack Of Awareness is a major barrier. Mental illness can be difficult to identify, and lack of awareness makes it harder for people to take the necessary action. Mental illness is still taboo in many societies. This ignorance can lead to a delay in getting timely help. The condition will worsen, and individuals may even commit suicide.
* Racial barriers:Racial/ethnic minorities, women, and people of color often have poor mental health due to a variety of factors, including the inaccessibility of quality mental health services, cultural stigmas surrounding mental healthcare, discrimination and misunderstandings about mental illness.
Understanding the multiple factors that affect health outcomes on a social-ecological level is essential to reducing mental health disparities and achieving mental equity.
How to make mental health services more accessible
Even though they are deeply rooted, mental health inequities can be avoided. These inequalities are caused by social and material injustices such as discrimination, stigma and unequal distribution of resources and wealth. Simple efforts could help achieve equal access to mental healthcare services.
* Spreading awareness: It is important to raise awareness of mental health issues and their importance. Schools should conduct workshops to educate young children so that they can identify early signs of mental illness and seek help. This awareness will encourage more open and honest discussions about mental health, and break down the stigma that people hold.
There are many resources that can help make therapy more affordable . Finding low-cost mental healthcare professionals may be difficult at first. It’s important to take care of our mental health as well as our physical. This shouldn’t be a financial burden. You can connect with a therapist via self-help apps like Betterhelp. These services are great for those with busy schedules or who cannot find a therapist in their area. Other free apps, such as Calm and Headspace, teach simple techniques, like breathing exercises and relaxation tips, which can help people with anxiety and panic attacks. These apps help to create a daily self-care habit.
* Fighting stigmas: The majority of people with mental illnesses are blamed and shunned in society. They can suffer in silence and remain discreet. Also, they are called offensive names. This stigma associated with mental health issues must be challenged through more open discussion. We can do this by educating both ourselves and others. We should also be aware of our language, and avoid using adverbs that are referring to mental health in a casual way.
* Building Communities & Support Groups: These groups bring together people with similar experiences, such as loss or illness. These groups and communities give individuals the opportunity to empathize, connect and feel supported. The people can learn and share their personal feelings and experiences, and they will also be able to develop new coping skills and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is also a great way to create awareness and a dialogue about mental health. Support groups can be for widows or divorcees as well as parents of children with special needs.