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.
LGBTI+ POPULATION AND MENTAL HEALTH
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!
WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH
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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