Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Global Mental Health: Raise Awareness & Reach Out

March 1, 2021 · 1 Comment · Mental Health, Uncategorized

Reflections on the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development | Mental Health Innovation Network

Mental health disorders are increasingly being recognized as a major cause of the global burden of disease, particularly among adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24 in the United States (CDC 2010). The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that 79% of global suicides occurs in low- and middle-income countries (2016). Although they may not be ideal, the United States has services in place to address adolescent mental health, however many regions do not have the same luxury.


In Latin America, the burden of mental health problems is high, but availability of mental health care services is low. Depression and substance use can be debilitating to young people still figuring out who they are. Identifying creative ways to use infrastructure already in place is imperative to effectively and efficiently addressing these issues. As noted in the NIMH Mobile Technology for Global Mental Health Research video, researchers working with the DIADA Project aim to use mobile technology to monitor mood and provide tailored  psychoeducation via a mobile health tool. 

Like with many other aspects of society, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed glaring weaknesses in mental health services and support across the globe. As this was a phenomenon that applied incredible levels of stress to all people, it is no surprise that mental health conditions like depression and substance abuse manifest in many communities. Valente (2020) identified a significant increase in “heavy episodic drinking” in a study of 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in a study by the Pan American Health Organization. Another study identified early evidence and predictors of mental distress of adults one month into the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil (Zhang 2021). This mental health epidemic coupled with the high COVID-19 death rates in Latin America ( bodes ominous for millions of people. On top of recommended limited in-person social gathering, that could relieve some mental distress, many mental health services services have been limited to phone or virtual means. The overall population health status in Latin American as improved in the past decade, but inequities in income and health are still serious issues faced. As noted in last weeks lecture with Dr. Ike Okosun, developing nations are not only fighting viral infections that developed countries have managed to control, but also non-communicable disease, and now the behemoth of COVID-19 has left many communities in shambles.

Still, developing nations were not the only ones struggling with this mental health distress outbreak. A study in France identified increases in suicidal thoughts, severe distress, perceived stress, severe depression and high levels of anxiety in young adults aged 16 to 24 (Wathelet 2020). Researchers in Ireland identified gapes in their ability to assess psychological reactions to the pandemic, limiting the ability to treat emotional distress and social disorder during and after outbreak (Cullen 2020). The researchers emphasized that we cannot neglect mental health in times of crisis.

infographic showing depress college student

Although much is doom and gloom in the news cycle these days, thankfully, all news is not bad news. Mental health awareness has grown as more celebrities, athletes and other public figures are speaking openly about about struggles with stress and mental health helping to destigmatize the subject. Often actors, artists and athletes are young people when they enter a life of fame, however, they are not immune to blows to their self-esteem just like the rest of us. If anything, they may be more susceptible to mental distress due to unceasing criticisms attached to their lines of work. 

Its important that this group of people speak out as many adolescents and young adults who are in the process of finding themselves are watching and listening to these individuals on a regular bases might find solace in knowing they struggle with the same anxiety. Destigmatization allows for more transparency between individuals needing health and those who can help. 

With pressure-cooked mental state the world is currently in, mental health awareness and initiatives are more important than ever. As general health consciousness grows, it can be an easy thing to not only neglect ones own mental health, but also of those immediately surrounding us. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve tried to make it a point to reach out to those I haven’t heard from in a while or people who I know may be struggling more than I to check on their mental status in a direct call or text. Social media can garner conversation around the topic, but sometimes it can be like talking into a void, exacerbating the situation. I’ve found the direct approach to be a little more comforting. 



One Comment

  • gargueta3

    I agree with your take on the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health. The pandemic has exposed and increased the mental health issues across the globe. Health inequities and disparities are still evident, and the pandemic only worsened the issues that were already evident.
    Unfortunately the stigma behind mental health makes it awkward to talk about the issue with certain individuals, but the best way I personally deal with stress and anxiety is directly. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood

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