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Let us prioritise our mental health for a fulfilling and healthy life

Every human being goes through various developmental processes across different stages of life.

The processes include physical/biological, emotional, social, and mental development influenced by genetic, environmental, cultural, and individual factors.

They are vital at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood, making the developmental journey of each person unique. 

At different times, we face numerous challenges (personal, biological, social, and economic/financial) that can be stressful and overwhelming, and impact our physical and mental well-being, productivity, and overall quality of life.

Therefore, learning how to cope with mental stress healthily is crucial for managing stress and supporting ourselves and others.

Physical and mental health are equally important components of overall health but this column focuses on mental development and health.

Mental development involves the growth of intellectual capabilities that influence behaviour, learning, and the ability of a person to solve problems.

However, intellectual development and capabilities depend significantly on the state of individual mental health, influenced by genetics, emotions, socioeconomic status, geopolitical factors, psychological aspects, environmental factors, and the use of substances like drugs, and alcohol.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” Mental health is a fundamental human right and vital for individual, community, and socioeconomic development. 

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, and social factors influencing our feelings, thoughts, behaviors, stress responses/management, interactions with others, and decision-making.

A person with good mental health contributes positively to life and handles challenges effectively. WHO highlights that individuals with good mental health can connect, function, cope, and thrive. Thus, our interaction with others tells people more about our mental health. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American philosopher, and poet, emphasised the importance of health by saying, "The first wealth is health." 

Health is the greatest wealth and asset. It’s the foundation upon which all other aspects of life depend. Prioritising health ensures the strength, energy, and mental clarity needed to achieve our dreams.

Yes, poor health, diminishes the use of other forms of wealth and significantly causes mental health disorders/illness.

Mental disorders can cause distress, impair functioning, and increase the risk of self-harm. According to WHO’s 2022 World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All, about one in eight people globally lives with a mental disorder like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (a severe disorder affecting thoughts, feelings, and behaviour).

According to the CDC mental disorders may be caused by adverse childhood experiences (trauma, abuse), chronic medical conditions (brain injury, cancer), biological factors (chemical imbalances), use of alcohol or drugs, and feelings of loneliness/isolation.

Let’s educate our people (from the family level to the national level) about mental health issues so that we can reduce stigma and promote mental well-being.

Let’s advocate for policies supporting mental health and provide resources for those affected by mental health conditions to create a more mentally healthy society.

Dear reader, if you are feeling stressed/depressed, just talk to someone you trust, you can relieve stress and promote resilience. CDC indicates that talking is a powerful coping tool when one is experiencing mental disorders. If professional help is needed, it is crucial to seek it.

If a person undergoing mental illness asks for your help, listening and showing support to him/her is vital. If you cannot help, advise that person to seek professional assistance without stressing him/her more.

Promoting and prioritizing good mental health is essential for maintaining intellectual capabilities, leading to a more fulfilling, balanced, and healthy life. Show self-love and care by prioritizing or taking care of your mental health and inner peace.

Dr. Saumu Jumanne is a lecturer at Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).

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