With the recent revelation that Prince Harry had to resort to years of therapy to get over the loss of his mother Princess Diana, has opened up a closed subject, that mental health is NOT something that is confined to a few people, but normal people can also suffer due to unexpected occurrences and they also need help to get over their problems.
In an earlier blog article here just a few days ago, I alluded to the propensity of teenagers to suffer depression if they are sleep deprived, as many in Sri Lanka are, and suggested means to reduce this incidence of depression, by appealing to the Education Authorities to bear in mind their special needs when setting times for school opening hours in Sri Lanka.
We have given way for convenience, over what is good for the child, the whole reason the school is established in the first place. We tend to forget why their are schools! It is NOT to give jobs and perks like extended holidays and get home early for Teachers, but to educate children in the best surroundings at times suitable for the young minds, and NOT TO THE MOTHERS WHO HAPPEN TO BE TEACHERS.
With high incidence of DEPRESSION in Sri Lanka, that is NOT merely misunderstood, but where insufficient resources are put their way to tackle the social crisis, it is important to bring it up the front and center of conversations.
The English Speaking Press has good articles tackling this problem head on without hesitation. However the Sinhala Press puts scant attention in this regard, and I firmly believe they must place a lot more emphasis in their reporting on addressing to make people aware that depression affects a HUGE number of people, and that it is NOT ODD, but common amongst people and that they can be helped to overcome it with various combinations of drugs and practical therapy.
Of course there is a HUGE SHORTAGE of trained professionals, which is sad considering that 1,200 doctors qualify but few go into this most important of sub specialty.
The article above estimates that over 800,000 Sri Lankans of all ages suffer from depression, which is a curable illness like hear disease, but DOES NOT get the same level of resource allocated to it. As many very young people also suffer from this, it is VERY important that especially in school age kids, this is identified at the school level, by social workers and appropriate interventions take place without delay.
HOWEVER only in 1% of needy cases is there ANY intervention, and so we have 3,000 suicides that can be prevented. Health is health be it of the MIND OR THE BODY, and we just don't seem to realize that it is important that both the mind and body be given equal prominence as if the mind is in some form of equilibrium, so will the body and COULD reduce the high cost of Health Care in the State Sector if the chronic illnesses caused by depression can be alleviated.
HATS OFF to the Daily Mirror for carry these two extremely useful articles, and the challenge is for the same newspaper group to give it as much prominence in the Sinhala speaking press.
I contend that much health care costs are wasted in Sri Lanka because it is FREE, and the user, is unable to make a value judgment on when to put the burden on the state for their health. In theory therefore this will yield positive results that will reduce physical health issues and therefore costs, if the mental health issues are broached and resolved as best they can.
It is all about spending wisely by prioritizing the spend where it is needed MOST and a good system which identifies these priorities and intervenes to address them without delay, will result in a productive workforce, and a society with less absenteeism and productive capacity lost due to untreated DEPRESSION.
Of course before we spend on Psychiatrists, we must spend on mental health counselors and have as many schools as possible covered by trained health professionals in this field. A program must be adopted to encourage people to follow this area as a profession, and have aptitude tests to choose the most likely people who could become successful counselors, and give them the scholarships or the opportunities to pursue this line of career.
There is therefore NO NEED for people to suffer in silence when solutions are at hand, and let us hope the mainstream Sinhala media is able to bring this point across to the people who suffer to seek intervention to manage a problem that could improve the quality of life those who live in Sri Lanka, and that is what is called development, over the tangible development which may NOT lead to satisfied lives.