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Blog 4: Mental Health Recommendations

Based on my research to date on mental illness within the African population and resource-poor countries, I have come to conclude some general recommendations that would improve this serious public health issue.

  • There appears to be a relationship between non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as mental illness and communicable diseases such as HIV. For instance, research has shown that individuals who have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder are also more likely to be or become infected with HIV (Lund, 2018). Moreover, those who with HIV are also twice as likely to have depression than the general population (Lund, 2018). Thus, further investigating the link between these highly prevalent diseases would be and worthwhile to research further since they affect a large percentage of Africans. Also interesting, is that treating individuals for depression improves adherence and boosts their immune systems (Lund, 2018)—a noteworthy link worth studying further.
  • Mental illness appears to affect those in resource-poor countries more than those who reside in high-income countries (Lund, 2018). Thus, resources and efforts should be available so that these countries receive the care they require.
  • Social determinants of health (SDH) or economic determinants of health (SEDH) do not tend to account for cultural factors specific to African cultures, and hence, need to be better adapted to the particular culture within the African countries that being defined. To accomplish this, there should be broader definitions of SDH and SEDH, so that unique cultural factors are incorporated— in doing this; it will result in more accurate findings and better interventions that will offer help to individual nations, specifically resource-poor countries. Furthermore, health agencies, researchers and/or governments should tailor definitions so that specific cultural factors are incorporated.
  • Individuals with mental illness do not only suffer from stigma but are also subject to human rights abuses (Lund, 2018). This due in large to a percentage of the population still viewing these individuals as being possessed by evil spirits (Lund, 2018). Thus, better advocacy efforts are needed to change the stigma and associate human rights violations. Expanding awareness efforts regarding mental illnesses will also help to decrease stigma by increasing understanding.
  • Resource-poor countries should look at different finance options, other than just Non-government (NGO’s). For instance, Financing (RBF), Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs), vouchers, conditional cash transfers, strengthening advocacy efforts, and a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), could all enhance mental health resources and interventions.
  • Strengthening health information systems (i.e., adopting electronic methods rather than paper-based) could lead to enhanced and more efficient mental health care.
  • There also needs to be greater research on mental illnesses in Africa, particularly among those affected by war, displaced individuals, women and children.
  • Strengthening of community supports, and looking at training other health professionals could improve health care delivery (i.e., traditional healers).
  • Bolster mental health policy in African countries; as some do not have specific mental health policies or are weak.
  • Improving mental healthcare and allocating more funds to combat this serious public health (PH) issue, has proven to be a good investment, as well as it supports many other PH issues as per the Sustainable Development Goals strategies such as poverty, HIV, malaria, gender equality and education (Lund, 2018).

Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed my series of blogs, highlighting my research journey; investigating mental illness in the African population. 

All the best! And, let us keep the investigation into mental health in Africa momentum going!

-Shelley

References:

Lund, C. (2018). Why Africa needs to start focusing on the neglected issue of mental health. Mind. Retrieved from https://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/health/mind/why-africa-needs-to-start-focusing-on-the-neglected-issue-of-mental-health-13182938

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