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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

WHAT WE EAT CAN AFFECT OUR MENTAL HEALTH

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I had a chat with friend over the weekend and he felt that dieticians placed at psychiatric hospitals are misplaced. The basis of today discussion will be herein a response to this.

Nutrition does play a critical role in mental health hence the need for dieticians to be involved in this field as it is the case now. As noted by the research team led by Joseph Firth, “nutritional deficiencies resulting from insufficient intake of nutrients critical to human health are a risk factor for psychiatric and mental disorders.”

Our brains needs food for them to function optimally. Concentration, memory, analysing to name but a few can all be attained by a “well fed brain.” If the brain is deprived of nutrients, it can incur oxidative stress which results in brain cell damage. Brain cells are irreplaceable and their damage facilitates the development of some mental disorders Experience of mental health problems may also be associated with poorer diet and physical health.

Poor nutrition has been implicated in the onset of schizophrenia by various research findings. Studies on schizophrenia patients indicated that the nutrients Zinc and Selenium were found to be compromised whilst in others there was insufficient Vitamin D deficiency.

Other research conducted has determined that the following supplements: zinc, magnesium, omega 3, and vitamins B and D3 are essential in elevating people’s mood, relieving anxiety and depression. Insufficient Omega-3 fatty acids has additionally been linked to low mood, poor concentration, cognitive decline and poor comprehension.

It is clear from the discussion that good nutrition is critical for our mental health and that dieticians are relevant in mental health. An affordable balanced diet which contains the essential nutrients is necessary to be taken to ensure that mental health is uplifted. Nutrition alone cannot ensure our mental but it has a significant adjunctive role. As posited by local author Lindo Morolong, “what you feed your body shapes your health.”

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Mental Health Series

LGBTI+ POPULATION AND MENTAL HEALTH

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Our previous discussion was centred on women as a vulnerable group to mental health problems and we will this week focus on the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) population; another vulnerable group.

According to American Psychiatric Association, LGBTI people are more than twice as likely to develop mental disorder in their lifetime. Various research done has shown that depression and anxiety are the most common mental disorders among LGBTI community and they are 2.5 times more likely to experience them than the rest of the population.

In addition, the LGBTI people are more at risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm and also gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual population. There has also been reported high substance use among LGBTI community compared to the rest of the population.

These statistics clearly highlight the grave situation that the LGBTI individuals are facing. A risk factor to the occurrence of mental disorders is the rampant stigma and discrimination on the LGBTI community. A study in Britain schools, did reveal that they experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Because of the prejudice, many fail to open up about their sexual orientation which is a factor that strongly facilitates development of mental illnesses.

The high rate of substance misuse could be attributed to trying to cope with the prejudice and discrimination. There has been reported inaccessibility to health services by LGBTI communities which may impact the address of their mental health issues. Studies have shown that they have an affinity to using health services hence it is ideal to holistically avail them.

Instead of focusing on our differences in diversity, the focus should be on finding the best practices and support for diverse populations including LGBTI. It is an open fact that stigma and discrimination facilitates development of mental illnesses or perpetuates existing ones thus the need to reflect as a society!

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