We all must've come across individuals with a mental disorder and how different people treat them in society. 'Different' doesn't always mean that they are treated with respect and liberty. Rather, it's the opposite; mental health issues are not effectively addressed in society, even though it is an issue that many face.
One in every five Australian people suffers from
a mental or behavioural illness -
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Social inclusion means the involvement of individuals suffering from mental disorders to participate and fulfil all social obligations. It includes intervention, crises prevention, destigmatisation, and getting rid of discrimination against mental illness. The idea of social justice and inclusion can be better understood with practice.
People suffering from mental disorders and their families go through various struggles in their everyday life. Getting an education in a social setting becomes a task for them as they are constantly under the scrutiny of the people around them. It is important to raise awareness about social justice and inclusion in mental health so they can have a normal life and be treated equally.
Mental health problems are evolving every day in our society. Even with all the technological advancements and accessible entertainment sources, we just can't seem to beat depression. According to reports by World Health Organisation, till 2021, over 264 individuals worldwide suffer from some form of mental disorder.
In Australia, young individuals (aged 15-24) suffer from mental issues like anxiety or depression in 2020-21, as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But, what are the reasons for inducing such stress levels even in the younger generation? Are social justice and inclusion principles in mental health failing our society? The covid crisis contributed to the mental issues faced by people of all ages and countries.
There has been a 13% surge in people suffering from
mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders
in the last decade. - WHO
There was a surge in need for telehealth services for mental issues in April 2020, during the second global lockdown phase. Also, from May 2021 - to September 2021, there was an uptrend in need for mental health care services in Australia (ABS reports). The fear and seclusion due to covid resulted in the mental health of a big chunk of the Australian population.
We can't discuss mental health issues in Australia without mentioning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities. The colonisation of these communities has resulted in various adversities, getting discriminated against, separated from their traditional way of life, and intergenerational mental illness.
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According to National Indigenous Australian Agency, the Indigenous people have a high percentage of people suffering from mental issues than the non-indigenous population, with twice as high mental distress and suicide rates. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities access mental healthcare services more than the non-indigenous population.
The reason for such high rates of mental distress, self-harm, suicide, and hospitalisation due to mental issues can be due to underlying issues. These communities are amidst socio-economic seclusion due to their history of subjugation and removal from their natural habitat.
In the year 2018-19, over thirty-one per cent
(which comprises 45,800 individuals) of adults
in the indigenous community reported having
suffered from high psychological distress levels,
as reported by National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Health Survey.
Other causes of social inequalities faced by the indigenous communities are a disparity in access to basic services like education, health care, housing, leisure, ect. Such unfair distribution is the access to power, resources, the economic sector and various other social policies.
The government needs to address the mental health issues faced by the aboriginal communities in a manner that does not just access the mental condition but the underlying reason for such a level of mass distress in the population. Also, the Australian government has indeed taken initiatives to include the aboriginal communities in society and meet their health care needs. But, how effective are these schemes? Did it include resolving the underlying issues and inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people? How to reform the principles of social justice and inclusion in mental health?
Offering individual support to individuals with mental conditions is a relief for them and their families. The families, friends, and the community around the one suffering mentally can reach out to them. Addressing mental and underlying issues can help reduce distress levels by manifolds and the negative impacts.
The National Mental Health Policy of Australia promotes the mental wellbeing of the indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Prevention or reduction of the mental illness's effects and promote the recovery and participation of such individuals. Here's how the Australian government is abiding by useful ideas of social justice and inclusion in mental health to formulate the best recovery schemes for all:
The ACCHS or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services is working towards developing a culturally inclusive environment for the aboriginal communities as the major contributor to their mental health issues is the communities being removed from their natural habitat.
Providing better mental healthcare for the aboriginal communities. It does not only mean mental healthcare but a mental aid with culturally informed practices that help these communities address their past and current trauma, societal pressures and their needs that will support participation in society.
The pandemic highlights the need for internet access
and accessible telehealthcare facilities.
The Australian government has dedicated 24/7 tele-counselling services led by refined experts from psychology and suicide prevention. People can get counselling for various concerns they faced during the pandemic. The social seclusion resulted in distress, depression, and anxiety due to the circumstances. Such services help people address and get aid for their mental conditions through remote options and feel connected through their adversities.
The Australian government's vision is to develop a unified mental health strategy apt to aid every individual nationwide. Under this system, it'll be easier for people to navigate various medical procedures and get through the healthcare system easily under this system. It is especially helpful for individuals with mental conditions as it often gets hard to seek mental help due to the various societal prejudices.
The Australian government is initiating various schemes and procedures for increasing the effectiveness of the mental health relief program. Even for the indigenous communities, the mental health initiative is led by people from the community, and it helps make the services more personalised and help address the communal issues.
Various prejudices surround mental health, and it doesn't have to be that way. It is something that everyone struggles with; a high school student or a professional working feels distressed due to their burdens. The principles of social justice and inclusion in mental health must change over time and create newer and better values for everyone. Reforming society is essential as no one can predict when circumstances turn to adversities.
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Keith Morris is a certified nurse who retired as a registered nurse after participating in a WHO campaign in Geneva. He is dedicated to helping students score good grades in their nursing courses and are offered a chance to help the people and establish a better healthcare community across the globe. He works as a nurse at a local clinic with underprivileged children and provides assignment guidance to the students. Reflection writing, aged care, Gibbs reflective cycle, cardiac nursing, pathophysiology, etc. are a few to name from his area of dominance.
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