Remshay Ahmed

  • And the way forward

Last week on 10th October the world marked Mental Health Day. Throughout the entire week, people from different walks of life shared their experiences with mental health problems and showed their solidarity with those suffering from it. Many influential people shared their personal battles, setting new precedents to a discourse which has formally taken shape in the last few years and has created a safe haven for those who seemed to have been overwhelmed with their own experiences.

While there is no right way of understanding what people are going through, acknowledging this as uniquely idiosyncratic to one’s experiences has been identified as the starting point. This has opened an important room for dialogue by way of which objective study of human psychology is only used to identify the ailment, whereas subjectivity is assigned more weight in understanding the symptoms and designing a treatment regimen. This subjectivity has allowed psychologists and patients alike to redefine traditional psychology in a way that brings in more people together.

Although bringing people together hints at the formation of society, the progress that is being made in psychology affects only a few. Individual states and the borderless non-governmental organisations are knocking heads in finding ways of improving Human Development Index (HDI), an important component of which is strengthening youth which is to form future labour force. At present, mental health and associated problems are the primary reason why the productivity of the labor force suffers. According to statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 300 million people, of all ages, suffer from depression and this is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The organisation goes on further to indicate that this is causing the countries millions of dollars as the incurred human cost. It is this below-optimal level of economic growth that can be categorised as the global disability.

A community-based approach needs to be adopted; understanding where the conflict is stemming from, what sustains it, the magnitude of atrocities against young people, and the ways in which the affected can be rehabilitated

Therefore, the WHO-led study uses causal relationship to explain that for every US dollar spent on health regimen planned for treating mental health, a return of USD4 is gained, in terms of better health of the work force and their ability to work. Hence, this international organisation encourages to draft cost-effective treatment plans and also to spend more on health.

But this isn’t possible for every single country. While first world countries gather data to understand their populations and draft health treatment plans, third world countries battle with resource constraints and justify low expenditures for the public sector in every possible way. Pakistan also makes this list, with one of the lowest government expenditures allocated for public sector health programs, which further contributes to the problem of resource constraints.

There are many factors contributing to this constraint. The most prevalent of which in this time is the ongoing conflicts, in various parts of the world. In states under severe economic duress, high rates of unemployment, poor governance, and insurgency; there is very little that can be done for the people affected by ongoing conflict, especially the youth.

In communities where government isn’t/can’t do much for its people, and progression is only promised on the basis of violent tactics, young people in/directly affected by violence find it harder to earn a living otherwise. Studies from United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) suggest that there is a strong link between economic deprivation and societal exclusion and recruitment by perpetrators of violence. This cycle when repeated enough times, is revitalised and puts more strains on the means of governance and economic growth.

Further building on this, the same aforementioned resources have also shown that children growing up in communities with ongoing conflict feel more ‘depressed’ and ‘uncertain’ about their future. With 68.5 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, we need a global strategy and systems to tackle the problems associated with mental health, especially for those in conflict areas.

UNICEF has defined child protection systems as certain formal and informal structures, functions and capacities that have been assembled to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children. These include child protection laws and policies, human and financial resources, governance, means of data collection and system monitoring, child protection and response services, and a network of families and communities. However, we have to find a way of especially helping the adolescents affected by armed engagements. In societies where structures and institutions are absent or nonfunctional, indicators need to be highlighted which can direct young people about the direction that they should take.

A community-based approach needs to be adopted; understanding where the conflict is stemming from, what sustains it, the magnitude of atrocities against young people, and the ways in which the affected can be rehabilitated. This approach is aimed at creating new avenues of discussion that bring in different communities when understanding the facets of modern day mental health concerns and formulating strategies that can take steer global economy in the right direction.

Albeit there are many variables in every conflict, treating health concerns in isolation and as the need of the hour is the way forward.