This piece is going to be the last set for the three (3) point series we started last two weeks on the issue of mental health being everyone’s concern. I am Dr. Adiza Musah, your psychologist. If you are new to our series, for these two links “https://afrikanmum.com/mental-health-is-everyones-concern-2/” to read our two previous publications before you read our last publication. We continue with our issue on mental health being everyone’s concern. Let’s look at Isolation and Loneliness and many other factors.
Isolation & loneliness: While loneliness is not a mental health condition in and of itself, the two are inextricably intertwined. People who have mental health conditions are more likely to experience loneliness. Loneliness can also have a detrimental effect on your mental health, especially if it persists for an extended period of time. Research has revealed that 10 loneliness may raise one’s chance of developing certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, sleep issues, and excessive stress. 10 A meta-analysis found that11, an absence of social interactions is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes every day or suffering alcoholism disorder in terms of health hazards. Furthermore, the study revealed that social loneliness and isolation have a negative effect on physical and mental health at a rate that is double that of obesity.
Another study examined the effects of perceived social isolation over the course of a person’s life and discovered evidence connecting perceived social isolation to negative health outcomes such as depression, sleep problems, cognitive impairment, increased mental impairment, poor heart function, and degenerative diseases in every life. 11
It is noteworthy that carrying a gene associated with a mental health disease such as depression does not enhance the development of the disorder. Similarly, individuals who do not share any associated genes or have a family history of mental health disease may nonetheless experience mental health problems. 12 Mental health problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety can arise as a result of chronic, life-altering physical health issues such as cancer, diabetes, or chronic pain. 12
- Chronic medical Conditions: Living with other chronic medical ailments, example cancer, diabetes etc
- Drug & alcohol abuse: particularly chronic substance usage, has been associated with anxiety, depression, and psychosis.
Signs of Mental Health Issues
Experiencing one or more of the following emotions or behaviours may be a precursor to a problem: 13
• Eating or sleeping excessively or insufficiently
• Withdrawing from people and routine activities
• Feeling drained or depleted of energy
• Feeling indifference
• Experiencing inexplicable aches and pains
• Suffering from a sense of helplessness or hopelessness
• Increased smoking, drinking, or drug use
• Feeling particularly befuddled, distracted, tense, furious, agitated, concerned, or fearful
• Alternating between yelling and fighting with family and friends
• Suffering from significant mood swings that cause relationship issues
• Experiencing continuous thoughts and memories that refuse to leave your mind
• Perceiving voices or believing falsehoods
• Consider self- or other-harm.
• Inability to carry out everyday responsibilities such as caring for children or commuting to work or school
Mental health in Ghana
Around 13% of Ghana’s adult population is believed to be afflicted by various types of mental health issues according to WHO in 2007 with 3% suffering from a mental problem and the remaining 10% suffering from a moderate to mild mental problem. 14 This rose to a rate of one in every five Ghanaians in 2019 according to the Mental Health Society of Ghana (MEHSOG) 15. Sipsma et al. (2013) reported in empirical research that psychological distress is widespread among men and women in Ghana, with over 20% experiencing moderate or severe mental distress, a percentage greater than that of South African (16%) or Australian (11%). Women who lack empowerment in personal relationships may be especially susceptible to mental distress. The findings indicated which demographics should be prioritized by programmes aimed at improving mental health. 16
Several Ghanaians live with undiagnosed mental health conditions17. According to WHO situational analysis in 200717,, 650,000 of Ghanaians suffer from serious mental disorders, while another 2,166,000 suffer from moderate to mild mental disorders. The treatment gap is estimated to be 98 percent of the overall population with a mental disease. 18
However, trustworthy statistics on the prevalence of mental and neurological illnesses in the nation are lacking.
Ways to maintain positive mental health include:
A healthy mental state enables you to deal with daily stressors and achieve personal goals. Numerous factors might have an effect on your mental health, including trauma, stress, and sleep disorders. Although you cannot avoid mental health problems, you may take efforts to safeguard and enhance your mental health throughout your life. 7
• Seeking professional assistance if necessary
• Reaching out to people
• Remaining optimistic
• Getting physical exercise
• Assisting others
• Getting sufficient rest
• Acquiring coping mechanisms 13
Simply, if a mental health condition is not addressed, the victim faces three possible consequences. The first is enduring the condition and falling short of expectations or being underproductive as a consequence of the person’s failure to function properly or to their full potential. Second, an individual who is not treated may indulge in societal vices such as drug use, armed robbery, and sexual misconduct. The third potential is that you will die because of the illness’s consequences, such as suicidal behaviour due to depression, dangerous behaviour owing to manic depression, inability to eat due to psychosis, or death from the disease that caused the initial condition. 14
According to the WHO, mental health encompasses “far more than the lack of mental disorders or impairments.” Not only is optimal mental health about avoiding active illnesses, but it is also about maintaining continuing wellbeing and satisfaction. Additionally, the WHO highlights the crucial nature of sustaining and repairing mental health on an individual level, as well as across diverse groups and cultures worldwide. 12
Thank you for staying with us through this 3-piece series. Recommend topics you think we should talk about and we will choose one to write on. Enjoy!
- Strengthening Mental Health Promotionexternal icon. Fact sheet no. 220. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
- Chronic Illness & Mental Health external icon. Bethesda, MD(2015). National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health.
- National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health, (June 28, 2021). https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
- Kirsten Weir (June 2012). The roots of mental illness; How much of mental illness can the biology of the brain explain? https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/roots
- Oppong, S., Kretchy, I.A., Imbeah, E.P. et al. (2016).Managing mental illness in Ghana: the state of commonly prescribed psychotropic medicines. Int J Ment Health Syst 10, 28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-016-0061-y
- Sipsma, H., Ofori-Atta, A., Canavan, M. et al. (2013). Poor mental health in Ghana: who is at risk?. BMC Public Health 13, 288. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-288
- Adam Felmanon (April 13, 2020) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323454#what-is-anxiety
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2014). SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. SMA 14-4884. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.
- Nonvignon et al (2020). Benefit-Cost Analysis of Mental Health Interventions in Ghana. www.copenhagenconsensus.com
- Dr Atsu Latey (2020). MindIT Mental Health Service Story – Ghana. https://globalhealth.harvard.edu/mindit-mental-health-service-story-ghana/
- World Health Organization. Mental Health: Ghana. Available from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/policy/country/ghana/en/.
- Amy Novotney (May 2019). The risks of social isolation: Psychologists are studying how to combat loneliness in those most at risk, such as older adults, Vol 50, No. 5. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
Kindly follow the link below to learn and comprehend more about mental health concerns in our second episode.
Featured Image source: www.npr.org
Story By: Dr. Adiza Alhassan Musah (PhD)
Patron, Muslimah Mentorship network,Senior Lecturer,
Faculty of Business Management and Professional Studies,
Management and Science University, Malaysia