Getting the Basics Right
Mental health is one of the fundamental pillars of an individual’s health and wellbeing; yet, it is often overlooked or neglected. Even when acknowledged, it is more often than not relegated to something of little significance for reasons such as lack of awareness and understanding, ineffective mental health policies and intervention, budget constraint, discrimination and stigma (Ngui, Khasakhala, Ndetei & Roberts, 2010). In addition, it often slips off our radar as it is not as visible as physical health; a broken arm or the presence of cancer cells are more directly observable.
When a government is facing a tight budget, a situation that is not uncommon in developing nations, resources available for the promotion of mental health are likely to be scarce. In most developing countries, only less than 1 per cent of the already low healthcare expenditure is channeled towards mental health (Goldberg, Mubbashar, & Mubbashar, 2000). Yet, mental and substance use disorders accounted for about 7·4% of disease burden worldwide in 2010, and this rate continues to rise in developing countries. As such, mental health policy and services research are necessary to identify effective methods to alleviate this problem.
A clear understanding of mental health is the key for us to find the best solutions. Mental health, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (WHO, 2014). This definition brings to focus two core points that allow mental health to be properly understood: First, mental health is not just a state whereby an individual is free from any mental disorders. Second, positive mental health is the cornerstone of a person’s wellbeing, as it governs the effective functioning of each and every aspect of life (emotional, physical and social). It enables the individual to cope with stress and thrive in the workplace, leading to positive growth and contributions towards society. A positive mental wellbeing is not just an asset for the employee, but for the organisation and the country, considering the resulting economic and social impacts healthy employees can bring collectively.