Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Different Sides of Global Mental Health

October 30, 2020 · 1 Comment · Mental Health, Uncategorized

Global Phenomenon     

There has been a significant increase in mental health disorders among young adults over the past decade but this increase has not been seen in older adults. This shows an issue environmentally that only applies to the younger generation. The problem is confirming the environmental risks that contribute to mental health issues. This is needed to create successful intervention plans. Over 4% of the world’s population suffers from depression which is 300 million individuals. We often think of the mental health of our nation but it is a global issue. Low income countries often do not have organizations dedicated to the promotion of mental health though vulnerability is higher in these areas. For example, countries with political instability have high risk of mental health illnesses and do not prioritize mental health among the famine and violence.

Environment and Mental Health

The environment we grow and live in is as much part of our health as our DNA. There are both physical and social environmental factors. This can be access to foods and clean air but also the presence of a support system among the family and community. There is systemic racism that has placed minority groups in poorer neighborhoods where they generally have worse nutrition that can contribute to poor mental health outcomes. There is sleep deprivation due to students and young adults going both to school and work to care for families. The structural racism in our society can itself be a source of stress especially when it comes to police brutality. Constantly seeing those like yourself killed and refused justice over something beyond your control (skin color) is frustrating and stressful.




Nationally we need to rethink the environment we create for younger generations that set them up for thinking suicide is an option. I think one of the things that makes this a huge public health issue is its ability to be prevented. Though logically it can be prevented through a more positive attitude towards life and less stress inducing pressures, this is a much more complicated process than it sounds. These attitudes and societal pressures (like school tests and deadlines for everything) are ingrained in everyday life and are not easy to break down to build up again. The highest jump in suicide rates among an ethnic group was among the Native American women. It rose 139% between 1999 and 2017. Research has shown this may be due to poverty, substance abuse, unemployment and an unusually high rate of abuse among the population. There is also unresolved generational trauma stemming from the history of this country.



Stigma around mental health issues deter people from seeking the help they so badly need. This is a problem with social and cultural taboos. 24% of adults have self-reported that there was an unmet need for treatment. We as a society have created an environment that looks down on people that have mental disabilities that inhibit self-control over emotions, thoughts and actions. This is very interesting to me because we as humans have this innate ability to sympathize with others yet there is a constant disregard for others situations, mental health being just one of many. There is an increased stigma among minority populations who are more vulnerable to certain mental health issues. This disparity is seen in the seeking and receiving mental health services. There is both a physical and financial barrier to access these services as well as the community stigma in these minority populations. The percentage of White men and women that use mental health services is nearly double that of corresponding African American men and women while rates of mental illnesses are similar.

Quarantine effects on mental health

The current pandemic has had mental health impacts as well. There are issues developed due to things like financial stress as many lost their jobs and their sources of income. Other stressors can come from the lack of clarity and direction from public health and political leaders. There is also a general fear of contracting COVID or giving to family members. We are a social species and the isolation of quarantine can be a stressful reality. The buildup of stressors like these can be damaging to a mind and cause withdrawal and depression like symptoms. This is important to consider as therapists and mental health professionals have to operate virtually. They need to be able to reach out to their patients and possibly welcome new patients with limited contact. These effects can also lead to an individual’s poor physical health through substance and alcohol abuse as well as affecting others through physical and emotional abuse.


I have noticed a shift in the newer generation of a non-stigmatized attitude towards mental health. A study looking at the change in attitudes towards mental health was done on healthcare professionals and students and has seen a negative trend and increase in positivity. The study attributes this change to healthcare professionals as a result of anti-stigma programs. The world psychiatric association created an “open the doors” program as an initiative to break this stigma globally and many countries have done various campaigns as well to combat stigma. Regarding the students there was an associated stigma leading to fewer psychiatric professionals but has decreased through anti stigma education methods. This reveals the importance of programs that actively work to change attitudes. This applies to not only mental health but things like voting and our impact and role in the political system.



One Comment

  • jshah13

    Thank you for such an amazing blog! I agree with you that there is so much social pressure these days that we unknowingly get submerged in it. However as you mentioned, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

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