Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

A Fight to MIND Your Health

March 7, 2021 · No Comments · Mental Health, Uncategorized

May should not be the only month to raise awareness or reduce stigma for cognitive or behavioral health issues. Everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health based on various factors. Some factors vary depending on the circumstance, age, culture, and gender. However, it still affects the mental health and wellbeing of individuals. 

Factors that can affect your mental health: 

  • Loneliness and Isolation
  • Grief and Loss
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Bullying
  • Unemployment/job loss
  • Sexuality
  • Sleeping problems
  • Life-course and events
  • Alcohol and other drug use


Therefore, we must continue to improve and promote mental health worldwide. Growing individuals’ knowledge of mental health in communities by improving access to services, especially during COVID-19, will begin the necessary changes.  This post will focus on how public health professionals can scale-up mental health care access in low-resource settings by incorporating new tools to address stigma and mental health services delivery. I will also discuss the world health organization (WHO) recommendations for addressing mental health amongst adolescents suggests coping strategies during a pandemic.  

According to Our World in Data (2018), “Around 1-in-7 people globally (11-18 percent) have one or more mental or substance use disorders. Globally, this means around one billion people in 2017 experienced one”. 

Untreated mental health disorders in adults, adolescents, and children pose a significant risk for many unhealthy and unsafe behaviors, including drug or alcohol abuse, violent actions, suicide attempts, and death. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of 123 American deaths daily and  48,300 Americans per year. Suicide in the U.S. is highest amongst Whites, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. It also is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world amongst individuals 15-24 years old. An individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity play a significant role in suicides. 

Source: Massatuchets Department of Public Health,2009


The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed (LGBTQI*) community faces a higher risk than the heterosexual, cisgender population for depression, anxiety, and suicide.

 LGBTQI communities risk factors associated with mental health disorders

  • Coming out/Rejection
  • Trauma
  • Substance abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Suicide
  • Inadequate Mental Health Care


These factors, mostly inadequate mental healthcare, can be problematic because professionals often grouped the LGBTQI communities and focused on a cluster of issues versus their unique challenges and mental health illness. Therefore it is essential for health professionals first to understand that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Identifying stigma and discrimination, including accessing health care services, isolation, poverty, non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, and violence prevention, are needed to improve access challenges. Many also believe technology will help scale up mental health care access. With the COVID-19 pandemic, new technology such as Telehealth has gained more recognition. Telehealth services allow care providers to render less stressful and better access to services to patients via video conferencing. I believe there are some strengths and gaps that exist in this approach. Telehealth improves the reduction of medical cost, access, continuity of care and decreases transportation barriers. However, suppose a patient, especially in rural areas, does not have access to a mobile device or internet. In that case, this approach poses a risk for individuals not receiving the benefit of telehealth services. 


In some countries where equality, equity, and justice essential to positive outcomes have not rendered successful initiatives in reducing mental health: 


  •  How can public health professionals communicate the need for mental health services? 
  • Without access to Telehealth, can other professionals such as lay workers and peer educators provide mental health services to low-resource settings in the U.S.? 


Therefore, mass media, collaboration with key community influencers, political representatives, and data analysis are vital in creating awareness for more mental health services. With proper education and training, lay workers and peer educators can encourage safer behaviors and serve as a welcoming resource to improve collaborative communication across sectors. By incorporating that approach, individuals, especially adolescents, can better understand myths and facts within mental health services and the need for improvement. The consequences of not addressing these myths and facts early in life might affect adolescents later in life. Therefore WHO’s recommendations A:

Source: WHO Recommendations

Universal psychosocial interventions provided to all adolescents are essential in addressing mental health. It aids in reaching a larger portion of adolescents and addresses various factors, offers skills to prevent risky behaviors, promotes positive mental health, and reduces suicidal behaviors.




 Our current state with the COVID-19 virus and its uncertainty many perceive (including myself) there is an increase in mental health issues amongst populations. In July 2020, a KFF Health Tracking Poll survey found that parents and caregivers reported the adverse effects on their mental health based on worry and stress from the pandemic. Based on the poll, in July 2020, 53% of parents stated that anxiety and stress impacted their mental health compared to 39% in May. With school closures, especially parents of color, 67% worried about their children suffering from emotional and social problems, 51% were concerned about losing their income, 47% concerned if kids would receive school-based social services, and 24% worried about the lack of food and resources at home. The pandemic and economic crisis have created barriers that have negatively affected people’s mental and physical health—causing increased public health attention to this situation. 

Weekly I call or text adolescents and adults in my life to check in on them, and I ask, “how’s your mental, physical, and emotional health currently” especially with so much going on around us. I encourage everyone to find something they enjoy doing. Here are some suggestions/ strategies to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic, but do what is best for you:


If you or anyone struggles with any feelings of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse, please reach out to the Suicide Hotline.

  • Understand the warning signs and reach out for help
  • Learn the facts about suicide

 If experiencing Serious mental health concerns, please: 


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