WHO defines Health as a state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being and not just the absence of disease. The most important takeaway from this definition is that mental health is not merely the absence of mental disorders. WHO has come a long way in the path of creating awareness, presenting guidelines, and advisories on mental health and well-being. The steps that are taken by WHO impacts governments and organizations in such a way that they recognize and alleviate the problem. This issue has to be handled as a high priority, as the unprecedented pandemic situation unravels it is striping people their lives or sustainability. The objective of this article is to understand the significance of mental health, role of government and WHO’s initiatives for impacting and improving global mental well-being.
- The Mental Healthcare act, a much-needed regulation that has been passed after a long wait. It has been passed by rajya sabha on 7 April 2017 and came to force on 7 July 2017, to regulate mental health care services across India such that it protects, promotes, ensure the rights of people with mental illnesses and vouches to remove the stigma associated with the disease.
- Work keeps us busy, which can be good for mental health but even one negative factor such as exhaustive physical work, overwhelming peer pressure, mentally draining environment, etc., can impact their mental health.
- Harassment, discrimination, violence, and bullying at work are prevalently found to occur in workplaces and this has a substantially negative impact on employee’s mental health. Unless there is supervision and abeyance to identify and reduce such incidents, the negativity of workplace might cost employees their health both physically and mentally exhausting them. Such crimes in workplace not only affects one or more employees involved but the whole organization.
- Multiple psychological, social, and biological factors are involved in determining the mental health of a person at a point in time. Promoting mental health requires actions that stimulate both psychological wellbeing and also creating a conducive environment.
- An environment that protects basic socio-economic, human, political, and cultural rights is fundamental to mental health. A negative work environment not only affects mental health but also cultivates harassment, bullying, stress, anxiety, discrimination, and partiality, social exclusion, human rights violation, reduced physical capacity and mental acumen in the workplace either directly or indirectly.
- The prevailing situation caused by pandemic does not help improve the mental health of working citizens. In fact, working from home does the exact opposite, creating stress, anxiety, depression due to workload and lack of balance between demands of work and home.
- While employees laid off may go through mental health issues of depression and anxiety, employees who survive the recession will also be facing issues such as tremendous pressure and stress to keep up to the expectation of employers in order to maintain their position. The industries should ensure handle such a critical situation with much kindness, diligence and empathy.
Role of Government
WHO establishes that the role of governments can be crucial to improve the overall mental health of citizens. Some of the areas, governments should focus upon are
- To identify populations that might be vulnerable, such as new employees, women, migrant workers, contract workers, the elderly or people with disabilities, etc., and promote their work experience, by create relevant policy or guidelines to ensure that they are in conducive conditions similar to others in the workplace.
- To establish regulatory legislation in key factors that often lead to mental health issues in employees, such as EHS management at work, policies to prevent discrimination, harassment, and violence, income protection, mental health conservation program, and reduction of unemployment.
The government is expected to perform its social, economic, and moral duties in a manner which is in the best interest of its citizens. The pandemic situation has been taking a toll on mental health, across globe. India can be classified among the worst hit, because being a developing country it houses people in all walks of life, yet the majority being poor, or middle class, these classes of people are badly stricken with anxiety and stress due to extreme financial burden for surviving the recession.
Exemplary governments of England, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Malaysia have come up with wage subsidies or coverage of certain percentage of the wages to be given. Norway has planned to give partial to full wage compensation for 3 months to the employees who have been laid-off by their company. Argentina has barred employers from laying-off for a period of 60 days. Such measures can actually impact their citizens by alleviating the financial burden for the time period.
Despite setting an example in handling the pandemic, Indian government is lagging behind and might even be causing the situation to worsen, in addition to the lay-offs and wage cuts increasing every day. The government is expected to bolster the working-class people, but the recent labour law relaxation which is a decision supposedly taken to stimulate the economy, in actuality abetting the exploitation of employees who are already in a bad shape mentally. If the system proceeds with such measures, mental health disorders can be expected to reach its peak in India, as never before, globally.
Initiatives by WHO on Mental Health
- Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, 2013–2020: It is a comprehensive manual for the member nations to follow the strategies developed by experienced professionals and achieve improvement in the mental health of the country to impact and address the global mental health problem.
- Mental Health Atlas is a project designed to collect and disseminate data on mental health resources available across the globe. This data is further processed to measure and identify the amount of priority each country gives to mental health. The project began in 2001 and was updated subsequently in 2005, 2011, 2014 and 2017.
- The Mental Health Policy and Service Guidance Package is provided for policymakers who may look for core aspects of mental health to be incorporated in their policy
- The Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) provides various resources such as Intervention Guide, Operation manual, Assessment Management of Conditions Specifically Related to Stress, Evidence Resource Centre, etc., aiming for scaling up of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders for member nations.
- WHO-AIMS (World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems) a new WHO tool for collecting essential information on the mental health system of a country or region. The ambition in collecting such data is to improve mental health systems and to give a baseline for monitoring the change.
- MiNDbank- More Inclusiveness Needed in Disability and Development is a global platform that aims to ease the tension in dialogue, advocacy, information exchange, and promoting mental health.
- Quality Rights initiative – as the name suggests, the project’s goal is to improve quality and promote human rights to reform mental health services. Promoting human rights can be helpful in many respects and not only for mental health. Such other purposes are to improve the standard of living for people with psychosocial, intellectual, and cognitive disabilities around the world.
- EQUIP– Ensuring Quality in Psychological Support project is developed to ensure the quality and effectiveness of brief psychological and psychosocial support interventions that are delivered by people other than mental health specialists or those who have very limited mental health-related experience. This helps in expanding the use of the interventions developed by professionals at WHO in communities who need them around the world.
- AUDIT – Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test, a project developed to identify the amount of addiction to alcohol, its consequences, and intervention guidelines. It is developed such that it is both efficient and economical so that it is useful for the larger population.
- ASSIST package – Alcohol, Smoking, and Substances Involvement Screening Test and Self-help guidance developed for identification and control of substance abuse especially in industries so that unsafe acts by such intoxicated people do not cause incidents.
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