Mental health issues have so long been encased in taboo and stigma. It is gradually emerging out of its hiding and is slowly making its presence felt. Internationally, the burden of mental health issues is magnanimous and is contributing to disability and mortality in an unimaginable manner.
There’s no denying that mental health issues are multiplying by the days. People are now starting to converse about mental health more openly. Infrastructures are being built nationally and internationally to ensure that mental health occupies a major space in the health welfare system. The definition of health no more excludes the aspects of mental health. Rather, the inclusion of mental health in the definition of health completes and amplifies the wholesome nature of a person’s wellbeing.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
If we look at this compact definition of health given by W.H.O, we will get a glimpse at the components of health, which clearly states that the exclusion of mental wellbeing does not correlate to being healthy.
The Burdens of mental health
Mental health issues not only affect an individual but also a large segment of society as a whole. It has the capacity to cripple global development. Mental illnesses do not discriminate between the group, community, age, gender, caste, race, color, or status. It can happen to anyone. But mental illnesses have more challenging impacts on the poor, the unemployed, the uneducated, and people who are more prone to violence like the elderly and the women.
This is the reason why it is important to impart mental health awareness to every nook and corner of the world. Unfortunately, mental health is largely ignored in many parts of the world and people with mental health problems deny seeking treatment due to the social stigma attached to it.
Considering the prevalence of mental disorders and other substance abuse-related problems in adults and children, it is not surprising that the economic and emotional burden on individuals, their families, and society as a whole is huge. Not to forget that mental and physical health is interrelated and hence, mental illness can lead to an increase in morbidity and mortality rate. In fact, mental illnesses cost national economies several billion dollars including the expenditure incurred for treatment and loss of productivity. It is estimated that the cost of mental health problems in developed countries is about 3%-4% of GNP.
In such increasingly trying times, the role of mental health professionals and other national and international bodies of health welfare is extremely vital in reducing the gap between the proposed mental health programs and their implementation.
The roles of a psychologist in society
Psychologists and other mental health professionals study the behavior of an individual in a particular temporal, socio-economic, and cultural setup. They also study the different functions and structures of an individual’s brain. The contribution a psychologist can make in uplifting the general well-being of human beings is undeniable. Psychologists play a very pivotal role in changing the face of society.
1. Ensuring strategic planning for communities
When a community shows concern for their people’s mental health, a psychologist can help them reach the public welfare goals that the community sets, based on the needs of the individuals. A psychologist can help discern which particular group needs to be legally protected or if any group’s mental health needs to be promoted immediately and worked upon more vigorously. Psychologists can provide crucial insight regarding the incidence and prevalence of certain mental health issues, behaviors, and the cost of each problem which helps community authorities to decide which problem to focus on. Should the community invest a higher proportion of money in caring for the elderly? How should they prioritize targeted problems and how should they allocate resources to address them? A psychologist can help seek answers to these questions.
2. Providing empirical insights into behavioral disorders
A psychologist can provide crucial data regarding the prevalence and incidence of behavioral disorders which are empirically supported by various researches. They can also provide an array of interventional techniques and preventive measures that the society can undertake for the general well-being of the public. Such methods of sorting which problem at hand to currently focus on are completely based on the scientific database. Clinical Psychologists have formulated some well-structured scientific-based practice guidelines to which they strictly adhere to.
3. Planning mental health awareness programs
A mental health awareness campaign requires it to be structured scientifically and functionally. Not everyone can plan mental health workshops, programs, or awareness camps. It needs a professional approach that will efficiently help promote important information regarding mental health.
Mental health awareness programs should address the following:
1. What is mental health?
2. How is it interrelated to physical health?
3. Why is it important to be mentally healthy?
4. What are some popular myths about mental health and how to shatter them?
5. How can someone help remove the stigma around mental illness?
6. How to identify mental illness?
7. What are some common mental health issues in the community?
8. How can one seek help and treatment for mental problems?