According to World Health Organization, health definition stands on a tripod of complete wellness of physical, mental and social domains rather than viewing it as an absence of illness. Considering this definition, it means that if someone is diagnosed of diabetes and maintains a clean bill of health in emotional state and social aspects, then the individual will be seen as sick. Almost all of us will agree with this analogy but this is true as well for other aspects of the tripod of health, when ANY one is missing.
While the consciousness about what not to do to attain an optimal physical health is rife in the world today and the society is well aware about dealing with anyone who is physically unhealthy, such could not be said of mental health. On the face level, the societal acceptance of illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure, long sightedness or other such illnesses is commendable. This increases health-seeking behaviour of those who might be affected by the diseases and encourages them to adhere to their physician’s interventions. For example, the society has normalized the wearing of eye glasses sometimes making those who wear a pair of glasses to look like a geek.
Sadly, this is not the case for mental illness. Those with diagnoses of mental illness are suffering on many fronts; first, on the front of largely confusing experiences that they are passing through and the unacceptability and somewhat fragrant abuses of human rights received from the society. You may experiment this by saying that you are depressed to your “enlightened” friend or colleague and you start getting reactions like “you are lying”, “what would make someone like you to be sad?”, “are you the only one with debt?”, “would you be the first person that would experience being jilted?” and so many similar statements. But if you are admitted in the hospital for a broken bone, you tend to get statements like: “get well soon written on your plaster of Paris and possibility of a lot of visitations in the hospital.
Our communal societal education and knowledge about mental illness is pervasive but it has not proven to be effective in changing our negative attitude towards those with the experience of mental illness. Changes occur only when there is a personal experience of the illness or someone close to you is experiencing the illness. Would you wish to have a mental illness? I am very sure the response will be overwhelmingly negative but there is a thin line between mental illness and wellness. One of the best way to appreciate mental illness is by getting closer to it – this can be achieved by increasing our familiarization with people with mental illness (their pains, its universality, their pains, struggles, fears, victories and stigmas. Hopefully, this will not only widen our knowledge base but also expand our capacity to accommodate and love the sufferers, give them a voice or use our voice for them when they are shouting but they’re not heard and be less stigmatizing towards those who have it. If you will like to know more about how to help people who suffers from mental health issues, please contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org, 081 2827 6962, +234 2291 4084.