Family, Education Have Key Role in Mental Wellbeing

Family, Education Have Key Role in Mental Wellbeing Family, Education Have Key Role in Mental Wellbeing

A survey conducted in Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Mashhad shows that mental disorders among children under 14 years have seen a rising trend in recent years and it is up to the family and educational institutions to do their fair share in safeguarding and promoting the mental wellbeing of children.

The results of the survey of 10,000 people, including parents, family members, teachers and psychologists selected randomly, has shocked sociologists and psychiatrists alike, who believe that the increasing social and economic problems over the past few years are responsible for the rise in mental health disorders among young people and adolescents.

Around 6% of children in Iran suffer from depression, 3% from mania, and 4% from obsessive compulsive disorder; 0.7% have anorexia nervosa and 18% are hyperactive. The rate of mental disorders among children is worrying, but the stigma attached to mental illness deters families from seeking therapy, say experts.

The per capita spending on mental health in Iran is paltry, less than $1, as compared to developed nations which spend over $150.

Mohammad Reza Mohammadi, scientific secretary of the Sixth Conference on Mental Health and Media, held February 16-17 at Rouzbeh Hospital in Tehran, pointed to family and educational bodies as key agents in safeguarding children’s mental wellbeing, the Persian daily ‘Etemad’ reported.

“The media can also play a significant role by raising awareness and check the dissemination of wrong information about mental illnesses,” he said.

 Equal Attention

Mental and physical health cannot be separated and to create a healthy society, authorities must pay equal attention to both. Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injury; they increase the risk of getting ill from other diseases such as HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and vice-versa.

Mohammadi, who is also professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, and member of the board of directors at the Iranian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, partly blamed the media, particularly the mass media, for portraying people with mental disorders as ‘psychopathic.’ Television and cinema, more often than not, depict mentally-ill persons with severe disorders as psychotic.

According to a new study, the label one gives a person with such an illness can influence how they are treated and tolerated by society. Published recently in ‘The Journal of Counseling & Development’, the study found that people were less tolerant toward individuals who were described as being “mentally ill” as opposed to “people with mental illness.”

“Only 0.6% suffer from severe mental disorders and the conditions of this small group must not be generalized to cover all people with mental disorders,” Mohammadi said.

Patients with minor disorders can be treated with visits to a psychotherapist and medication, but due to the negative image of mental illness, many people refrain from seeking timely medical help. It is estimated that half of the young people with mental disorders are not referred to a specialist by their families.

The conference was jointly organized by the UNESCO Chair in Health Education, the Iranian Psychiatric Association, Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Psychiatry and Psychology Research Center of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

 Global Statistics

According to the World Health Organization, around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems and about half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14.

Neuropsychiatric disorders are among the leading causes of worldwide disability in young people. Yet, regions of the world with the highest percentage of population under the age of 19 have the poorest level of mental health resources. Most low and middle-income countries have only one child psychiatrist for every 1-4 million people.

Disorders affecting children may include anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.