STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, AMBASSADOR JOE T. MHISHI ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY OCTOBER 10, 2020
- What is Mental Health?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
The WHO further notes the following as key facts of mental health:
- Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.
- Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.
- Mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors.
- Cost-effective public health and inter-sectorial strategies and interventions exist to promote, protect and restore mental health.
- Why is Mental Health important?
This question is provided by WHO in its elaborate definition of mental health which informs that, Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The WHO constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
According to WHO, Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.
- What is the World Mental Health Day all about and what is its importance?
- World Mental Health Day – 10 October – is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. This year’s theme, Do You See What I See?, challenges perceptions about mental illness and encourages everyone to look at mental health in a more positive light, in an effort to reduce stigma and make way for more people to seek the help and support they deserve.
4. Investing in mental health
4.1. The Australian Government through its budget announced on 6 October, 2020 committed itself to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians, and has invested $5.7 billion in 2020‑21, including funding for critical frontline services, suicide prevention and key programs.
4.2. This Budget includes $101 million of additional funding to provide access to 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people with a mental health care plan, so that they can continue to access the services they need.
- Challenges To Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Neurocognitive disability (NCD). NCD relates to any disorder of the brain such as through acquired brain injury, dementia, alcohol and drug use, infections, and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). NCD can affect multiple domains including cognitive processes, psychological and physical function, as well as impacting personality and behaviour.
- Among victims of NCD are people who are marginalised, such as through rural and remote living, homelessness, mental illness and/or cognitive disability, and those engaged with the criminal justice system.
- Furthermore, Mental health problems are very common in communities where there are issues of violence, substance abuse, family conflicts, unemployment and a high incidence of suicide and self-harm.
- Other well documented causative factors of poor or compromised mental health and wellbeing include:
- social exclusion,
- intergenerational trauma,
- and loss of land and culture (King, Smith & Gracey, 2009).
- There is also the challenge involving vulnerability in matters to do with mental health of people with past traumatic experiences. Refugees are particularly vulnerable to mental illness following trauma and/or torture that they faced in their country of origin (Steel Z et al, 2002, Schweitzer et al, 2006).
- A complex range of health and mental health problems are experienced by a heterogeneous group of culturally and linguistically diverse people of African origin, including immigrants and those from refugee backgrounds. These issues not only relate to physical health and mental health problems, but also to low health literacy (Murray SB & Skull SA, 2005).
- Recent research in Australia reveals that there is stigma surrounding mental health issues within African communities in Australia, which results in a low-rate of self-reporting that then negatively affects access to mental health services (de Anstiss H & Ziaian T, 2010, 2010). Research data shows that there is high uptake of counselling services from new entry refugees and asylum seekers who are referred as part of the comprehensive health assessment process but, following that, there is a significant decline of counselling services offered to the African communities.
- Some Solutions To Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Holistic conceptualisations of health and wellbeing
Recognizes the indivisibility of mental, physical, cultural and spiritual health (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013). Until mainstream services demonstrate an understanding of and respect for these understandings of health and disability, services will not meet the needs of marginalised persons or communities be it in Australia, Zimbabwe or any other country on planet Earth. (Wand, Eades & Corr, 2010).
- Holistic Engagement with the marginalised or vulnerable persons and communities. This involves building trust and respectful relationships and fostering cultural understandings.
- In Australia, a commendable initiative that is worth emulating elsewhere is the New South Wales Mental Health Plan. This plan recognises that strong connections among people are the foundation of mental health and wellbeing. The plan also identifies the need to have culturally and linguistically diverse populations as a special focus group. However, for a plan such as this one to be effective, society and communities need to be capacitated. Capacity building includes the architecture of appropriate institutions that support and facilitate the integration of migrants into Australian local communities and nation at large.
- The Zimbabwean Diaspora Community in Australia On dealing with Mental Health and Wellbeing Issues
- Zimbabweans across Australia organised themselves into communities which fall under community leaders. In Canberra and in Perth, addition to a community leader in each case, there is a Community Elder. This social organisation is a formidable institutional arrangement through which community and group cohesion is cultivated and social support extended during periods of individual needs.
- Community integration and cohesion is demonstrated through occasions such as gatherings for:
• religious fellowship; It is important to note that whereas fellowship and church service may be about worshipping God among Christians, the experience takes on a different meaning when fellowship is conducted in a Zimbabwean cultural context and in most cases praise and worship songs are those the congregation has sung throughout early childhood back in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, some Zimbabwean community members are fortunate because in Australia are present ordained pastors and preachers of the word of God. Present also are Evangelists. This reality creates a homely atmosphere of religious worship that is crucial for mental health and wellbeing.
• birthday celebrations of community members or their children;
• bereavement, memorial or unveiling of tomb stone occasions; solemn occasions such as these are conducted in a familiar Zimbabwean cultural context which in certain respects helps the affected individuals or families to better cope with the emotional challenges they may be facing or going through.
• burial services, where such is conducted on Australian soil as opposed to repatriation to Zimbabwe of the remains of deceased persons.
• There have been cases in which financial assistance is extended for critical intervention, through individual contribution on the Go-Fund platform.
- On 27 April, just 3 months after the outbreak of the once in a life time mental and health challenging COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the Zimbabwe Community Youth and Support Network conducted a seminar via Zoom on the topic: Let’s Talk About Mental Health During Covid-19.
- In Victoria, the Zimbabwe community organised itself for rendering assistance to community members affected by Covid-19 under a program called Covid-19 Outreach. The Outreach appealed to those who might have been affected by COVID-19 and failing to get back on their feet to contact the Outreach Program’s 4 person contact team on provided mobile numbers and email address.
- Again, in Victoria, on 7 December 2019 was held a days get together program called Zim Day Out under the theme: Come Join Us For Another Celebration of Our Culture. The days program included Brazil; family competitions including basketball, soccer and netball; music performances and DJs; and Jumping Castle and Floss Machine for kids.
- On 2 May, 2020, a program was held via Zoom on the topic: Overcoming Mental Health Stigma.
- There is also the Zimbabwe-Aussie Radio program on which discussion has been held on subjects like mental health with a focus on relationships, family and domestic violence. Lead participants in one such program held on 25 August 2020 included a Social Worker (Counsellor/Advocate); an Educationist/Registered Counsellor; and a Senior Registered Psychiatrist/Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Therapist.
- From 3 November 2019 to end of December 2019, the Zimbabwean community in Victoria staged a football tournament for a trophy which embodied the theme of unity: Zimbabwe Soccer Team Unite Cup.
- Zimbabwe’s diaspora community members do get together in some cases to celebrate the Christmas festive season. As Ambassador, 3 months after my arrival for the first time in Australia, my family and l had the honour to be invited by the Zimbabwean Canberra based diaspora community to an end of year festive season barbecue.
- In New South Wales, a Zimbabwean owned shipping company, Global Union Shipping Pvt Limited, that ships goods to Zimbabwe, in August launched a TV Station called Global Union TV Australia. The TV’s coverage focuses on:
- promoting charity work between Australia and Zimbabwe through collecting and shipping highly needed goods in Zimbabwe Hospitals working through a registered charity organisation the Echoes of Grace Foundation.
- Business Advertising talk shows and business advertising videos.
- Showcasing upcoming musicians , actors, actresses and comedians,
- Cultural Talk Shows involving reasons for high divorces in the diaspora,
- raising kids in foreign land and interracial marriages and their challenges.
These talk shows will soon commence and will be streamed from Australia, Zimbabwe, Johannesburg, UK and New Zealand.
- On 26 September the Global Union Shipping TV station streamed a young musician Nice Boi with a focus on supporting Zimbabwe and Australia Youths. Nice Boi is scheduled to state a huge concert on Saturday 10th of October, 2020 at 7pm Zimbabwe time (3 A.M. Australia time) launching his new album live on Global Union TV.
- In Perth, the Zimbabwean community has organised World Health Day celebration for 17 October, 2020 under the theme: Strengthening Our Community – Live, Learn, Play, Work. The highlights of the celebration will be addresses by main speakers and three group discussions of men, women and youths. Sub-themes of the program are:
- reach out and help others,
- see the funny side of life,
- learn something new,
- be a friend,
- have an early night,
- organise your day,
- go for a walk,
- eat healthy,
- take time out,
- ask for some help.
- Thus, where it is the case that individual migrants from Zimbabwe to Australia find themselves socially isolated or marginalised, in the broader Australian societal context, they have recourse to community support systems at the Zimbabwean diaspora community level.
- The community level integration of individuals and groups of Zimbabwean origin within the Australia, is a very commendable development. It promotes mental health and wellbeing of immigrants from Zimbabwe.
- Of course there is always a draw back in that community support systems are not permanent institutional formations like public support institutions which are manned by full time mental health or social services provision workers.
- Therefore, linguistically and culturally defined community support systems are effective as back up of the public institutions that have a permanent presence in the physical sense and also in terms of round the cloak availability of service workers.
- Therefore, it is important that community organisations inculcate in group members a strong appreciation of public institutions that contribute towards mental health and wellbeing. The objective is to overcome the stigma surrounding mental health issues which one research in Australia observed to exist among African communities in Australia and which results in a low-rate of self-reporting that then negatively affects access to mental health services.
- Appreciation of the importance of public mental health institutions should be manifested in group members voluntarily accessing those public mental health support institutions to benefit from their advanced services.
- AMBASSADOR’S TIPS ON MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Just as we are taking physical precautions in relation to the Coronavirus Pandemic – such as practising good hand hygiene and social distancing – there are things we can do to benefit our mental health and wellbeing during this time.
These include but are not limited to:
- Stay connected and informed
- Focus on strengths – having positive thoughts can help you feel better
- Take time out – when you relax you give yourself permission to let go of your worries for a while. Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from daily stressors.
- Sleep well – we cannot function properly without sleep. Sleep helps us to repair and restore our body and mind.
- Keep active – your physical health plays a key role in making you mentally healthier. Being physically active can improve your mood and reduce stress.
- Eat well – nutrition and eating well can make a difference to the way you feel and in time may improve your mental health.
Joe Tapera Mhishi
Embassy of The Republic of Zimbabwe
9 October, 2020