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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

WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH

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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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Mental Health Series

GLUE SNIFFING AFFECTS OUR MENTAL HEALTH

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One reader recently enquired through email over whether glue sniffing can cause mental health problems or not. Glue is classified under a group of drugs known as inhalants and it is an open fact that inhalant use is a cause for concern. Inhalant use account for 1 % of substance use in the world.

We have been accustomed to the fact that glue is usually used by “street kids” but is often used by many of the youth. Several studies have shown a strong relationship between juvenile delinquency and inhalant use and in most cases a facilitating ground for use of other illicit substances. In developing countries like Botswana it is mostly common in lower socioeconomic group. Glue when used as a drug, the method of administration is often sniffing.

The intoxicating effect from glue sniffing is often short lived for a few minutes. This then forces the user to repeatedly inhale the glue to get the “high” effect. The effect of glue sniffing can be hallucinations, confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech. Glue sniffers may initially attain a euphoric state or less anxiety which is an effect they desire to either cause trouble or commit crime. Following many years of chronic glue use, there can be central nervous system or brain damage.

Some users can end up having tremors, muscle weakness or even death as a result of use. Dealing with glue sniffing, takes the most universal approach like other substance use disorders. However, we must cognisant of the fact that inhalants like glue are readily available, less expensive and legal which make it easy for youth to use. The use of glue is easily concealed which makes it difficult for parents and teachers at school to detect its use.

Treatment of the problem is often done looking at individual client’s symptoms. Individual counselling and group therapy may be other alternatives in addressing the situation.

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