As an adolescent, I could explain what physical and social well-being was perfectly. I was however as lost as a needle in the ocean when it comes to explaining what mental well-being is. Physical illness was not new to me. After all, I have been down with fever at several times. Even though the evidences of extreme mental disorders stared me in the eyes in form of the ‘mad men’ that roam the streets of my country, I was blind to what mental illness is. How can I explain mental illness when I don’t even know what mental health is? My only explanation for the mentally derailed people I see everyday was that they were victims of spiritual attacks. Looking at them with pity in my adolescent eyes, I always wondered why their family never prayed for them.
Few years down the line, I am still young but I have grown and learned. I have found out that unexplainable weight and appetite changes could be as a result of depression, not just malaria fever. It has come to my notice that the suicide cases I hear on the news are not tales from a foreign land. I have seen medical doctors misdiagnosing and inevitably mistreating mental illness as physical illness. This is not just an occurrence in my society, it happens even in societies with high level of mental awareness and quality healthcare system.
The World Health Organization defined health as the complete state of physical, mental and social well-being,not just the absence of disease or infirmity. This means that full understanding of our health is not possible without a knowledge of our mental health. How else would you know that your mental state could be the cause of your physical illness? Untreated schizophrenia can lead to stroke, depression is characterized by lethargy and depression can cause disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle. Hormonal imbalance can cause mental health problems. The physical and mental health are interrelated.
As I grow up and become more aware of what mental health truly is, a lot of thoughts come into my mind. How many people have died from wrong diagnosis of an illness that was mental and not physical? As the world stands still due to this pandemic, I really hope that we could take time to reflect, seek understanding and share the knowledge. The current lockdown has made us realize that everyone is susceptible to illness whether mental or physical. An health discourse, analysis or evaluation without mental health is nothing but a misunderstanding which can only lead to a misdirection.