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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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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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