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From an Expert, Learn the Importance of Prioritising Your Mental Health

In collectivist cultures such as in Ghana, what affects an individual is typically perceived to affect the whole family. Subsequently, a family member who experiences severe stress and/or trauma would seek to address it in the most culturally-acceptable ways in order to maintain their own sense of dignity and that of the family.

We hear a lot about taking care of our physical health. This includes visiting physicians when we feel unwell, keeping up with medical appointments, and getting our yearly checkups. What about our mental health? Is it just as important? Is it possible that the mental health challenges that we experience are equally or even more detrimental to our wellbeing?

A lot of people struggle to acknowledge that they are battling mental health issues. Some may even be oblivious to the fact that they have ongoing mental health issues. Either way, the lack of awareness of what constitutes a mental health disorder as well as the stigma attached to mental health makes it difficult for many to consider that they are dealing with such difficulties.

In collectivist cultures such as in Ghana, what affects an individual is typically perceived to affect the whole family.

In collectivist cultures such as in Ghana, what affects an individual is typically perceived to affect the whole family. Subsequently, a family member who experiences severe stress and/or trauma would seek to address it in the most culturally-acceptable ways in order to maintain their own sense of dignity and that of the family. The notion is that problems are, after all, a part of life and that we must learn to deal with them as everyone else does.

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As a result, any effort to seek help from a trained mental health professional such as a psychologist, for example, may be frowned upon. We may consequently face pushback, scorn and ridicule from others. We may hear comments such as, “You’ll get over it… you’ll be fine… You’re just going through a rough time… be strong… This too shall pass… Pray about it… Trust God… It is well….” from well-meaning people. We, and others, may even question our faith in God about seeking that kind of unconventional help because, after all, one must have unshakeable faith in God. We consequently present a brave front in order not to be perceived as mentally weak or “crazy;’ although we may not necessarily have the tools to address these challenges.

The recourse may be to seek counseling within the family or in the church, typically through “elders” or through prayer. Although the element of faith cannot be discounted in such instances, we must endeavor to seek the help of trained mental health providers in the same way that physical ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes require the attention of a trained physician.


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How does one know if a situation constitutes a clinically significant mental health challenge? There must be significant distress in one’s life that encompasses one’s cognition (thinking), emotion regulation (feelings), or behavior (actions). This distress affects one’s social and occupational functioning or other areas of one’s life. In other words, the challenge that we are experiencing affects our ability to function effectively on a daily basis and also negatively affects the lives of the people around us.

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If your being overwhelmed adversely affects your daily functioning, work, and family life, it is time to seek help. A person struggling with high blood pressure who does not manage it properly could potentially die from it. Similarly, a person with severe depression may end up committing suicide. A person with mild to moderate depression or anxiety may appear to be functional but would not have the optimal quality of life needed to flourish.

Some people erroneously believe that struggling with a mental health problem is necessarily indicative of “being crazy.” This misconception suggests that all mental health problems are on the severe end of the spectrum and involve some sort of psychosis (particularly hallucinations and delusions) as we see in the “mad man” who roams the streets. However, that is not true.

Mental health problems encompass common stressors such as the loss of a job, prolonged grief over the loss of a loved one or domestic violence as well as the more severe clinical syndromes such as schizophrenia. For these reasons, we must demystify mental health, educate ourselves about mental health disorders, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health in the same way that we are familiar with, and accepting of, physical illnesses.


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It is imperative that we understand that our mental health is just as important as our physical wellbeing. Additionally, it is important to understand that mental health challenges affect our physical wellbeing and our overall quality of life. For example, untreated trauma, depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety could result in a plethora of physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure and insomnia. It also results in social, occupational and functional difficulties. Similarly, a child with autism, for example, is likely to have emotional and behavioral difficulties that would affect their social and school functioning.

Unfortunately, many people cope with mental health challenges in unhealthy ways by engaging in at-risk behaviors. This could include excessive drinking, the abuse of illicit substances or risky sex escapades.  It is thus important to take our mental health functioning as well as that of our loved ones seriously. We must not shy away from addressing such challenges. We may choose to do so quietly but we must ensure that we seek out trained professionals to help us address those problems.

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