The Mentality on Mental Health

Commentators: Ashley Wolff, Mary Hager, Miranda Mendoza, Jade Lau, and Aaron Diep (Students at University of California, Santa Cruz)

This week our focus is on the mental health of people of developing countries who have gone through traumatic experiences or have had a mental illness from birth. We are going to look at the negative and positive ramifications of the treatment each country provides to its citizens and how it affects the country’s quest towards reaching proper healthcare.

Aaron: Mental health is proving to be a continuing and growing issue. Even in a developed country like the United States, we do not have a healthy system of treating people who have mental illnesses or have undergone tremendous stress and trauma in their lives. One can only imagine what it is like in developing countries. Then again, we don’t have to imagine; a variety of news and first-hand accounts are keywords away, just like this article The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa.

Jade: That is true. While we may find access to mental health care in the United States to be limited, it is significantly advanced considering what Mr. Gbedjeha had to endure. It is appalling that the government’s lack of concern in providing medication to the mentally ill has led to mentally ill people being chained and treated like animals.

Miranda: Remember Jade, it isn’t just places like Africa where the mentally ill are treated poorly. In the United States, there are still a lot of social stigmas and issues concerning the mentally ill. They are just as likely to be helped as they are to be shot down or institutionalized for their behavior.

Ashley: But at the same time though Miranda, what we are experiencing in the United States is in a sense entirely different from the developing nations because our medical institutions and techniques are so different. In these nations the medical advancements are nothing compared to the technology that we have so readily available.

Mary: It is true that there are huge differences in American’s medical system and that of developing and third world countries, but within America’s system there are disparities in care depending on the area in which you live. People living here in Santa Cruz will recieve much different care than communities in cities like Camden, NJ.

Jade: Humans should not be tethered to a tree or locked in a cage because it is degrading and hurtful to the person to have their freedom taken away from them. Moreover, this barbaric treatment puts an incredible strain on the families for they have to find ways to pay for professional care or directly provide food, clothes, constant attention, and in Mr. Gbedjeha’s case, the chain as well. It is heart breaking that families are forced to subjugate their family members to the treatment because they are given no other option.

Ashley: I agree Jade, the way that these people are being treated is inhumane and also, freedom is not a right that should be so readily taken away from an individual. I also believe that other options should be made available for these families because what they are going through is not only difficult for the person with the illness but the families too.

Aaron: Fortunately attention to the topic of mental health is still growing. While not as focused on as diseases such as HIV and malaria, cost of treating mental health is growing and according public health researchers at Harvard, will soon outpace the cost of treating chronic diseases such as heart disease and even cancer. But all we have talked about so far is about mental illnesses. We have hardly begun to scratch the surface of mental trauma and how easy for those with mental trauma to slip through the cracks of both their community and proper treatment. Take refugees for example, they have left everything they know behind and have had to undergo the stress of making it to another country.

Miranda: Refugees are a perfect example of those who have suffered some mental trauma. Take the Syrian refugee crisis; the United Nations estimates that about half of the four million people who have fled Syria are children.

Aaron: Children who may or may not know what is happening to them. Dealing with an influx of outsiders is always hard, but I am happy to see that the mental health of such young children is being taken very seriously. Without help, these children can let their trauma manifest in ways they would never expect. Even more crippling would be it manifesting in their older years, where mental health is so critical in maintaining a standard of living.

Mary: Whether or not children know exactly what is going on, they can sense fear around them and in this stage of development, I agree with you Aaron that its important that the children get the care that they need.What they are experiencing now will effect them for the rest of their lives.

Miranda: We do want the children of Syria to feel safe and not have mental issues, I completely agree. But I think we should put the same amount of effort into helping people who are already sick as we do into preventing more mental illnesses.

Jade: No child should witness so much violence or feel so much fear for their lives, but our world is filled with it. However, it is comforting to know that there are places where they can go to cope with nightmares and bad memories. If the Syria Bright Future program continues in Syria, it will decrease chances of children “drifting into crime, addiction, and violence” and increase chances of children building a better future for themselves through education and obtaining the care they need. By Syria taking care of their children, they are also creating a future for themselves.

Aaron: I think we all agree that mental health is an important part of healthcare. As students I think we all have had days where we just aren’t able to do anything, whether it’s from school-related stress or family issues. It’s great that students like us have access to mental health programs such as CAPS on campus. Having a healthy and stable population is greatly important to the development of nations as a whole. And I think we all should continue to support these services where they are needed the most. By continuing to mistreat the mentally ill or stigmatize those with mental trauma, we can not progress until all can step up and move forward as one.