Adolescence and the early years of adulthood can be times of stress and apprehension. If not recognised and managed, these feelings can lead to mental illness. The expanding use of online technologies, while undoubtedly bringing many benefits, can also bring additional pressures, as connectivity to virtual networks at any time of the day and night grows. Many adolescents are also living in areas affected by humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. Young people living in situations such as these are particularly vulnerable to mental distress and illness.
This statement was made this morning by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo, at the Brown Sequard Mental Health Care Centre (BSMHCC) on the occasion of the celebration of the World Mental Health Day 2018. This year’s theme is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’. He stated that adolescence is a critical period since youngsters are more prone to depression, auto mutilation, suicide, intimidation, alcohol and illicit drugs consumption, eating disorders, psychosis and cyber bullying. Other factors such as violence, wars, conflicts, geopolitical changes, trauma, discrimination, family conflict can also lead young people to become vulnerable to mental distress and illness.
Dr Husnoo raised concern over the high number of young people, namely 1 000, admitted in the five Regional Hospitals and BSMHCC last year because of consumption of synthetic drugs. He pointed out that substance abuse is threatening the lives of young people as well as affecting their mental well-being. He also highlighted that in 2017, 500 young people were examined for the first time at the BSMHCC, amongst which 13% were drug addicts and 7%suffered from depression.
In view of this situation, the Health Minister recalled that Government has taken several measures as regards the prevention and treatment of mental disorders. He recalled that last week, Nénuphar Centre, a new Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre which aims at providing a treatment programme for young drug addicts aged below 18, was inaugurated at the Long Mountain Hospital.
According to him, much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults, and to manage and recover from mental illness. Prevention begins with being aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness. Parents and teachers can help build life skills of children and adolescents to help them cope with everyday challenges at home and at school. Psychosocial support can be provided in schools and other community settings and training for health workers to enable them to detect and manage mental health disorders can be put in place, improved or expanded, he added.
Also present for the occasion, the representative of the World Health Organisation, Dr Laurent Musango, highlighted that Worldwide, around 10 to 20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. He also observed that depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability among all adolescents; anxiety is the eighth leading cause. Emotional disorders can be profoundly disabling to an adolescent’s functioning, affecting schoolwork and attendance. Withdrawal or avoidance of family, peers or the community can exacerbate isolation and loneliness and suicide, he underlined.
Dr Musango recalled that WHO has developed a comprehensive package of training and guidance modules to build capacity among mental health practitioners, people with psychosocial, intellectual and cognitive disabilities, people using mental health services, families, care partners and NGOs on how to implement a human rights and recovery approach in the area of mental health. He also dwelt on the importance of a multi-sectoral approach involving the government, civil society, NGO and the WHO to be able to reach out to the community and deal effectively with mental disorders.
The ceremony was marked by a cultural show by patients of the BSMHCC and an exhibition cum sale of creative activities of patients from the Occupational Therapy Department.
World Mental Health Day 2018
The World Mental Health Day, celebrated on 10th of October every year, aims to sensitise the population on the importance of mental health and mental illness. The objective is to raise awareness on the different services provided in this field and at the same time get rid of the taboos attached to mental disorder. This year’s theme is “Young people and mental health in a changing world”.
According to the WHO, mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years. Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated. Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19 year olds. The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
Source: Government of Mauritius