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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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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

LGBTI+ POPULATION AND MENTAL HEALTH

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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!

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