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Mental Health Series

THERE IS NEED FOR A ROBUST SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME

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The 2018 PSLE, JCE results have been released and we are still waiting for those of BGCSE. In most of the deliberations post the results, mental health was never brought up as a factor of influence.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that mental health problems affect academic performance. According to a 2016 research paper by Dr Gerd Schulte-Kone, “about 10-20% of children have a mental health problem of some type.” Children and adolescents are often the age group that mainly attends school and incur these myriad of mental health challenges.

The challenges include learning disorders, conduct disorders, depression, ADHD, substance use problems, bullying which in one way or another affect academic performance of students. With the advent of mental health problems, students are bound to fail, become truant, skip classes and even drop from school. There has been instances of students experiencing anxiety disorders during examination time culminating in them in ultimately failing.

The various mental health problems highlighted above could have specific tailor made strategies to address them but there is need for a robust school mental health programme. Schools should not wait for a crisis to bring in the expertise of mental health professionals but rather strive for prevention as “prevention is better than cure.” Other strategies could entail the following;

Having a fully-fledged mental health department within the school set up
Periodic mental health screening of students
Rigorous mental health awareness training for all teachers to enable them to identify students with challenges
Having strategies to curb bullying
Integrating mental health education into the curriculum to nurture kids at a young age
Teachers themselves do experience emotional stressors in relation to the nature of their job. Teachers endure verbal abuse and is some quarters physical violence from students which may facilitate development of emotional and psychological problems. It is nigh we have mental health programmes within the school set up that also includes teachers.

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Mental Health Series

INTERNATIONAL NURSES DAY: REFLECTING ON THE MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES OF NURSES

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Today’s reflection will be on the Nurses’’ day that was celebrated worldwide on the 12th of May. The day is celebrated in remembrance of the birth Florence Nightingale who is the pioneer of modern day professional nursing. The theme for this year is “Nurses: A voice to lead-Health for All.”

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system as in every health care facility they are there to provide care. They are the single largest group of professionals in the clinical field.
The crux of the discussion is that professional nurses experience burnout and workplace stress because of the nature of the demands of the nursing job. These emanate from working long hours, emotional exhaustion from dealing with vulnerable and ailing clientele, experience of traumatic events, fulfilment of high professional and public expectations and low reward outcomes for their efforts.

The nurses’ already volatile ordeal is further compounded by incidences of nurses being assaulted, emotionally abused, physically abused, sexually assaulted and cyber bullied by the same individuals that they seek to render care for.

The above highlighted challenges can be emotionally draining to the nurses and even facilitate development of mental health problems if they are not attended to promptly. This has been affirmed by various studies.

A review paper done by Vasconcelos and others in 2016 highlighted that the risk of exposure to HIV and poor relationships with administrators as other associated factors that facilitated development of mental disorders.

The review found the following as affecting most of our nurses; post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, generalised anxiety disorder, depression and over indulgence in substances.
Nursing managers, the patients as well members of the community need to play a pivotal role in ensuring protective factors towards nurses’ mental health are availed.

The good thing is that this can be ensured by helping nurse build resilience, having debriefing sessions for nurses working in trauma care and having measures like retreats to name but a few. Nurses need to be healthy for them to be custodians for “health for all”.

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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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