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Mental Health Series

Addressing bullying in schools

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I came across a news story online from ABC News that a nine year old boy committed suicide following bullying. The boy had disclosed being gay which culminated in him being bullied by fellow schoolmates. The central point of today’s discussion is bullying and its ramifications.

Have you seen kids refusing to head for classes for lame reasons? They could be experiencing bullying. Bullying is a phenomena that is rampant in our schools. It is a destructive and deliberate pattern of humiliating and harming others whom are vulnerable. The act of bullying happens consistently with victims most of the time being helpless to fight.

Those who bully can do it in so many ways that include;
Kids being punched
Their things being spoiled
Kids being teased
Nasty rumours spread about the victim
Victims being threatened
Victims being coerced to bring gifts

According to one study, those whom are bullied are at an increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Others maybe sad and lonely and have tendencies of absconding from or being anxious when summoned to go to school. The commonest mental health problems include depression, parasuicide, conversion disorders and substance use disorders. A long term damage to self-esteem is possible in these circumstances.

Dealing with a child who is being bullied is difficult. Parents and guardians should avoid at all costs to blame the child for being bullied. Active listening is a basic tenet to help the child. A child who is bullied often finds it difficult to tell people thereby it is important to listen and try to address the issue.

Our school system need to have anti-bullying programmes and also employ resident mental health professionals to address this problem. As Michelle Obama once said, “we explain when someone is cruel or ac ts like a bully, you do not stoop to their level.” Let’s address this!

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Mental Health Series

WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH

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March the 8th marked the International Women’s Day under the theme ‘balance for better”. “The Mental Health Series” would like to glorify all women and bring to the fore pertinent issues in relation to their mental health.

Women to a greater extent are affected by mental health problems more than men. Notably depression and anxiety are the commonest mental disorders that affect women. According to the World Health Organisation, depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% of men.

Apart from gender specific determinants, a lot of socio-economic factors make women susceptible to having mental health problems. Women incur pressures from their many roles especially as single parents in many of the households. Gender discrimination in the workplace and political sphere, violence in various forms, sexual abuse, income inequality and poverty all account for the development of mental illness in women. Women also experience bullying in social media which as well can lead to lead to mental illness.

We all need to acknowledge the risk factors to mental illness that are peculiar to women and find ways to mitigate against them. Women often find it essential to seek health services and thus need to be encouraged to continue the feat as that will go a long way in helping women. We indeed need to balance for better the programmes that can empower women and serve as protective barriers from development of mental illness.

Women should have equal opportunities for economic growth, jobs and enabled to lead as that will augur well for their mental health. A worrisome issue in sport is the income inequality which renders women as inferior; has to be addressed as a matter of urgency!

There is need to nurture the mental health of women. It is nigh men reflect and do away with gender based violence. The effects of violence are far reaching hence the need to change for upliftment of mental health.

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Mental Health Series

WHAT REALLY CAUSES MENTAL ILLNESS?

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Over the weekend, one reader put it to me that I explain if indeed witchcraft causes mental illness.

My position was that I cannot confirm or deny that witchcraft does cause mental illness. However, it is an open fact that there is no exact cause for mental health disorders but there are various risk factors that can lead to development of mental illnesses. Research does indicate that many of the mental health conditions are caused by a combination of environmental, biological and psychological factors.

Like many of the diseases, mental illnesses as well have a genetic predisposition meaning the illness runs across families. This is suggestive of the fact that if one has a family member with mental illness, there are highly likely to develop one themselves because it has been passed through genes. Having genes for mental illness does not translate to the conclusion that one will have the illness as there are also environmental factors needed to trigger the illness. Brain injuries have been seen to facilitate the development of mental illness.

For example, people who have incurred brain injuries often display aggressiveness which could be linked to certain areas of the brain being affected. Some individuals develop mental illnesses as a result of factors during birth and childhood. A case point is when an infant is deprived of oxygen during a difficult delivery; mental health problems like autism spectrum disorders may suffice. Malnutrition during child development may hinder brain development hence development of some mental illnesses. We previously discussed how poor attachment goes on to facilitate development of mental health problems later on in life.

Substance use has an influence in many of the mental disorders. Illnesses like anxiety, depression, paranoid schizophrenia are somewhat influenced by long term substance use even though there may be other influencing factors as well. Lastly relationship problems, marital problems, work stressors, marital problems and poverty have all been seen to influence mental illness development. Mental illness is complex. We all need to acknowledge the fact that it is an illness like any other and avoid myths surrounding the illness as they are not in any way helping!

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