Catherine A. Nalule
Published by: United African Diaspora
United African Diaspora recently conducted a survey on mental health. Our aim was to discover people’s perception on mental health and whether the issue is treated seriously within different communities.
With a promising 93% of people deeming mental health as “important”, we discover that always considering your personal mental state, when looking after your physical self, is only done 25% of the time.
Why is this? Our survey revealed various reasons behind this.
The social acquisition vs. inheritance argument with regards to mental health issues, resulted in 83% deeming both as equal contributors. However, more people considered society to have a greater impact on mental health as opposed to inheriting any issues.
While 71% of our participants ranked mental health as important as physical health, 20% still considered mental health to have precedence.
MHF (Mental Health Foundation) states that although there is a clear distinction made between ‘mind’ and ‘body’, we should not see the two as separate when considering mental and physical health.
“Poor physical health can lead to an increased risk of developing mental health problems. Similarly, poor mental health can negatively impact on physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.”
We also asked our participants about mental health with regards to relatives or people they know. 39% who said they know people with mental health problems, admitted to not assisting them with personal or professional help.
Our results showed lack of facilities available, as the biggest reason for not being able to assist others, followed by downplaying the situation.
When asked how communities regard the importance of mental health, it appeared that almost 50% felt that their communities were either indifferent or didn’t treat it as very important.
In ‘A Preliminary Theory of Interorganizational Network Effectiveness: A Comparative Study of Four Community Mental Health Systems‘, University of Arizona’s Provan and Milward, reveal a deeper issue, routed in the ineffectiveness of communities with regard to mental health assistance.
Provan and Milward’s study shows that it is problematic to focus on individual organisational effectiveness within a community, when they are apart of a larger network. Integrated systems of community care agencies was proven to be more effective in providing “a full range of health and human services needed by severely mentally ill patients in a way that ensures continuity of care [post deinstitutionalisation].”
With regards to community action on mental health on a social awareness level, it appears more can be done to educate residents, perhaps through focus groups and to also gain insight in understanding the needs of individuals better. This may help to reduce the 67% of people who feel their community offers a lack of support.
We asked them to explain why this was the case:
A vast majority believed any mental health issues that they’re facing, can be resolved by itself. Another dominant factor was the fear of stigmatisation; nobody wishes to be labelled as mentally unstable which is more likely to come as a result of opening up to someone or seeking professional help. Embarrassment also flagged up numerous times, as people showed lack confidence in themselves and genuine understanding of the importance mental health.
With over 50% of our participants belonging a black ethnic background and 73% ranging between the ages 21-25, it would appear that there is a correlation between the results of our research and age / ethnic background of our participants.
Is mental health treated differently within different communities and towards people of different ethnic backgrounds?