Hello world, this 10th of October the world celebrates yet another Day dubed Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is ” Dignity in mental health” and this is the focus of our post this week. There may still be more than an entire month to go before the D Day, but the theme is such that we mental health advocates and sympathizers, really need to generate discussions and reflections on this soul searching theme all the time.
The WHO stance
Thousands of people with mental health conditions around the world are deprived of their human rights. They are not only discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised but are also subject to emotional and physical abuse in both mental health facilities and the community. Poor quality care due to a lack of qualified health professionals and dilapidated facilities leads to further violations.
The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, is “Dignity in mental health”. This year, WHO will be raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns.
A Poignant Public Opinion
We recently came across a blog post by a lady who deplored the ‘indignity’ suffered by her husband who has a mental condition. She makes an arguement that those with a mental health history, are glaringly discriminated upon in hospitals even when they present physical illnesses. She uses a term ‘diagnosis overshadowing’, to explain how the mental illness diagnosis on your chart, overshadows whatever other information is there or could be put there. The medical community seems not to pay the same attention to a patient with a mental health ‘label’ as they would pay to one without. Even if the two came for a similar consultation say of a cardiac problem. This is something we have unfortunately withnessed first hand.
Threats to Dignity in Mental Health
According to an article by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE),
Research evidence broadly identifies three areas as threats to dignity in mental health care, although there is considerable overlap between them:
- stigma and discrimination
- acute inpatient care
- human rights violations
We at the Gbm-em Foundation are for a start focusing the bulk of our efforts on contribution our mite to the fight against stigma and discrimination. In our pilot area of the South West Region of Cameroon, these have been brought out by survey to be the main hinderance for any ‘real care’ once a patient or family member starts displaying signs of mental health challenges. There are very few public facilities or medical resources available for such people, there is no mental health policy in place, very limited resources available both to public or private institutions, not to mention the various challenges such families will face in the first place.
Nevertheless, where there is a will, there is a way. For us, it starts with sensitization, advocacy and more outreach. Our campaigns are gradually gaining ground, and our hope is that the more people dare2talkabout it, the more consideration such problems will even attract from the different stakeholders.