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World Mental Health Day: How Effective Connection with Nature benefits our Mental Health

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The World Mental Health Day which is celebrated on 10th October every year aims to reach millions of people in the World to raise awareness on mental health issues. The human mind is quite complex, though intricate. This is because the brain tends to come to grips with its delicate balance in times of joy and happiness, sadness and distress, pleasure or illness. This is chiefly because the human mind has its vast miseries depicted in the functionalities of diverse capabilities evident in lives as we make merry, while at other times, we face frustrations and disappointments.

Mental health is a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional wellbeing. A person’s mental health includes their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is the foundation of thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. Thus, mental health is crucial to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributes to normal functioning of our daily activities, family, community and society at large.

Mental health and psychiatric disturbance require to be more fully understood as an illness. This is because psychiatric symptoms are natural experiences emerging in the realm of ordinary daily life as people interact with the environment. In the mental health field, there is a growing awareness that the study of psychiatric symptoms should be extended to the everyday context. This is to provide information on contextual factors and conventional approaches in order to identify effective intervention strategies towards improved health. This includes the person’s healthiness, particularly their mental health.

Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make various choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. We must strive to have a purpose in life for our lives to be more meaningful. In addition, there are millions of people suffering from mental diseases who are unable to access health services for practical and economic reasons. Therefore, there is a need for additional assistance, including the use of digital media.

Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make various choices

The World Mental Health Day provides a major opportunity for us to work out various mental health issues and programmes. As a way of improving our health and wellness, the 2021 Mental Health Awareness Week emphasises on nature and the importance of connecting with nature, including the benefits of connecting with our environment in order to improve our health.

Various themes have been discussed and encompassed in the last decade, and this goes a long way to emphasise the importance of mental health.

World Mental Health Day: Themes for the last ten years
2021 Mental Health in an Unequal World
2020 Move for Mental Health: Let’s Invest
2019 Focus on Suicide Prevention
2018 Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World
2017 Mental Health in the Workplace
2016 Psychological First Aid
2015 Dignity in Mental Health
2014 Living a healthy life with Schizophrenia
2013 Mental Health and Older Adults
2012 Depression: A Global Crisis

There is a need for preventive and protective measures with concerted efforts aimed at enhanced mental health well-being of both children and adults. Teachers and parents, learning institutions, and the community must safely guard children and young people against the ill consequences of current and future pandemics, including HIV and AIDS, cancer and COVID-19. It is essential that we offer children and young people with hope and faith by frequently talking to them about their lives, school and higher education, work and career. At the same time, we must strive more towards identifying the various needs of individuals, family and society. This can be done in various ways such as encouraging people to be vaccinated and protecting self and others. This is in order to make health and wellness, and mental health care a reality for all people worldwide.

Mental Health in Contemporary Society

(1) Mental health issues affect one in four people across the lifespan.

(2) An estimated 50 -75% of mental health problems develop before 18 years.

(3) 1 in 10 young people is affected by depression, anxiety or conduct problems. This leads to alcohol and drug abuse, self-injurious behaviours, truancy and suicide, and other deviant tendencies.

(4) There has been a threefold increase in teenagers reporting self-harm in the last decade. In addition, suicide is one of the highest leading causes of death in the world and the second leading cause of death for young people.

(5) It is accepted among scholars that there is a high prevalence of anxiety and depression among all countries.

Mental health in traditional societies has had a cultural orientation in that it is embedded in the more religion and traditions of the people. This is the reason why people with mental disturbance are wrongly perceived as ‘bewitched’ or the condition interpreted as a punishment from the gods for wrongdoing. Thus, it has historically been neglected as far as health is concerned.

Additionally, traditional societies are faced with many challenges, chief among them poverty, uncertain political turmoil, HIV and AIDS, Cancer, Malaria and other diseases. In addition, other health issues seem to have been more prominent, such as infectious diseases, malaria, and maternal and child mortality. This explains the existing inequalities in mental health programmes in developed and developing countries.

Mental health must now take a shift to ensure improved health and mental health. Three major factors often intensify psychological issues and mental health in traditional societies. (1) First, the stigma associated with mental illness that arises out of the religious-traditional orientation.

(2) Second, and arising from (1) above, there is an obvious lack of knowledge about the treatment and extent of mental health.

(3) Third and arising from (1) and (2), there is a mistaken belief that mental illnesses cannot be treated. In the end, psychological illness and mental illness join the endless list of acts of the gods rather than the treatment norm.

The significance of mental health, especially arising from the existing inequalities, requires an enhanced understanding of health. Health is now understood as a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being; it is not the absence of disease or infirmity. This is significant because it lays emphasis on wellness, that is, physical, psychological, mental, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing. Health has three important components. Firstly, healthy living implies the absence of any disease or impairment. Secondly, a healthy person is also able to appropriately or adequately cope with the demands of daily life. Thirdly, the implication is that life has challenges, and therefore health does not imply the absence of disease, impairment and life challenges. Instead, there is a need for strategies to cope with the challenges of everyday living that include the ability to enhance our life skills such as emotional intelligence and resilience.

Mental healthcare access refers to the ease with which individuals can obtain the much-needed healthcare. It is defined in terms of the opportunity in which appropriate services are available to meet the healthcare needs. This is because if services are available, then an opportunity exists to obtain medical care; conversely, if the opportunity does not exist, then the healthcare services are unavailable. However, mental health services are marked by several barriers such as financial, organisational, social and cultural issues. For example, few hospitals provide for mental health and certainly not in the more rural setting. Besides, the hospitals that have the facilities tend to be highly expensive hence prohibitive. Also, persons with mental health issues are highly stigmatised and discriminated against, especially in more traditional societies. These factors tend to diminish the level of access to mental health services. As a result, inadequate and inaccessible mental healthcare services has exacerbated the existing social-economic disadvantages, stretching the problem even more.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had a sporadic effect on people’s lives across the World. Both the lockdowns and quarantine have impacted greatly on the general population and also children leading to psychological distress. This is because the restrictions have impacted negatively on life outcomes for parents and children.

Coronavirus, Lockdown, and Quarantine

Coronavirus leads to fear and anxiety. There are other factors such as the imminent layoffs and joblessness further aggravating the ailing World economy. At a personal level, there is disturbed routine, boredom, withdrawal and isolation. This leads to general low feelings, which in turn leads to reduced interest in activities, frustration and anger, and irritation leading to quarrelling. These will impact mental health as four major themes emerge, that is:

• Negative health outcomes as a result of poor interactions.

• Psychological anxiety and distress symptoms.

• Poor social and emotional responsiveness due to school closure.

• Decreased interest (in studies for children and students, work for adults) leading to feelings of hopelessness.

In behavioural terms, this fear of the unknown is marked by eating disorders (a poor appetite or eating too much), sleep disturbances (also lack of sleep or sleeping too much), strained body activities, indigestion and multiple complaints of body aches. This leads to increased frustration and depression.

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Dr. Geoffrey Wangohttps://counsel-lingmagazine.co.ke/
Many people often ask me about my personal stand, my passion in life and how I got into Counselling Psychology and why in particular the establishment and writing in their favourite publication, The Counsel-ling Magazine. Colleagues and students, participants in various seminars and others suggested that I should include some information that would assist clients, practitioners and students to perhaps establish a career, or even assess and evaluate their ethical, moral and professional standards. Well, this allows for personal reflection and I feel it wise to include a few remarks about my fervour on counselling, mentoring and education as well as various aspects of life.
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