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Mental Health Series




An avid reader of the column engaged me recently and implored that I unravel how culture has an influence on mental health and in this segment will try usher a response.

As asserted by Satcher (2001), cultural dynamics do play a significant role in influencing perceptions, beliefs and practices of community members towards mental illness and treatment. Whilst there is a universal conformity to what entails mental illness, the illness is defined by what a certain culture perceives as abnormal pertaining to their values. Cultural practices can adversely affect mental health.

For example, robing a widow in black for a year is a risk factor to mental illnesses like depression as the clothes are a constant reminder of his/her loss coupled with many restrictions imposed on them.

The discussion will focus on those that promote mental health. During bereavement, we often gather at the family of the deceased to convey support with close family members even moving in to stay for a few days. This is indeed a buffer to development of mental illness as family support is critical in dealing with our everyday challenges. This gesture prevents social isolation which is a risk factor.

Poverty has previously been cited as one of the social determinants of mental health. Our culture has a practice known as “mafisa” which promotes helping the underprivileged. This is a welcome practice as it serves as a protective factor hence mental illness development being annihilated.

Batswana by tradition often encourage dialogue whenever an issue arises. “Molemo wa kgang ke go buiwa”, so goes an old Tswana adage. This augurs well for positive mental as individuals are able to catharsise feelings and there is conflict resolution.

Elderly people are often encouraged by our customs to stay with the eldest daughter. This prevents social isolation brought by “empty nest syndrome” and avail resources for quality health outcome. Studies have shown that when the elderly do not stay alone, depressive symptoms are markedly reduced.

These few cultural practices outlined above indeed shows that we do not need rocket science to promote mental health! The strategies our in our midst.

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Mental Health Series




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




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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