Updated: May 10
by Nick Stevens, SEPAR International's Trauma & PTSD Specialist
One in four of us can expect to experience a mental health disorder in our lifetime.
That's a lifetime mind you, whereas there is a 20% conservatively estimated rate of mental ill-health in conflict areas; that's right this minute, with global humanitarian aid needs and forcible displacement rates as a result of hostilities reaching their highest levels since World War II.
This means your chances of developing issues which compromise your mental or psychological state, having experienced those environments, is significantly raised. Aside from conflict areas these trends are borne out in areas experiencing natural disasters, famine and disease realising an all-time high in global mental health relevance, and yet…
"Mental health currently receives less than 1% of global aid. Domestic financing on prevention, promotion and treatment is similarly low. At present, every nation in the world is a “developing” country when it comes to mental health" - WHO 2019
The relevance of this becomes even more poignant, if you consider the effects of 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. The so-called ‘developed’ countries have been thrust into a situation which underdeveloped areas are, arguably, more familiar with, but none of us are ever truly equipped to deal with.
Not surprisingly then, our attention to people’s mental health has been highlighted as inadequate, and blessed initiatives to try to capture the increase in demand on Health Services has seen an upsurge.
Organisations like Crisis Resolution Home Treatment teams (CRHTs) and Crisis Liaison Initiatives have had their potential and strategies tested to the point of necessary expansion, in a push to capture sufferers and offer rapid help, sometimes to their colleagues as well as the general public. You will see then, the similarities to conflict and disaster zones.
It has never been more important to be aware of your own mental health. If we are honest, coronavirus has helped nations realise that admitting to having mental health issues is a “normal” response and not a reason to ostracise or denigrate those who do. It is the job of mental health workers everywhere to raise awareness, not only of the problems themselves, but also the tools available to
individuals to help them manage their well being before it becomes a bigger issue.
Mindfulness practices, including gentle reflection and meditation, have immense
value in allowing your psychological state some respite from potentially harmful issues.
Social support groups, with face-to-face contact rather than more anonymous electronic “social” networks – even when conducted virtually via Zoom and the like – help people to avoid isolation and disengagement (Amatenstein 2019; Rook 1984; Hajek et al 2019). Talking therapies, like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Dialectical Therapy, are more accessible to those who need help and
are more often used as part of wider mental health treatment plans.
The overall message is simple really: in a world where our resilience and mental robustness can be tested daily, not only by our life and work schedules, but by our methods of connecting with those we interact with, there is also a corresponding wealth of tools to be able to manage harmful effects. We as social beings have a responsibility, not only to look out for those around us, but to acknowledge our
own fragility and accept that this is not only normal, but to be expected. Help is
World Health Organisation (2019) - https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/
Amatenstein, S, LCSW (2019) Psycom - https://www.psycom.net/how-social-media-increases-loneliness/
Rook, K. S. (1984). Research on social support, loneliness, and social isolation: Toward an integration. Review of Personality; Social Psychology, 5, 239–264.
Hajek, A., König, HH. (2019) The association between use of online social networks sites and perceived social isolation among individuals in the second half of life: results based on a nationally representative sample in Germany. BMC Public Health 19, 40