October 10 is World Mental Health Day, but Malawi held national commemoration October 31 in Nkhata Bay.
Politicians are greatly faced with mental problems due to stress associated with lawmaking and policymaking.
In seven months, the country will be going to polls and political parties are conducting primary election. There is need for politicians to prepare for change of events.
Failure to prepare and face the reality increases mental health risks.
What do politicians have to do with mental health? Apart from setting policies with a profound effect on all our mental health issues, they are as prone to the ups and downs as the rest of us.
In Britain, a number of Westminster MPs courageously admitted to their own struggles with mental ill-health in the House of Commons in 2012.
They included Charles Walker, an MP with obsessive-compulsive disorder who famously described himself as “a practising fruitcake.
Mental health is a condition that does not get adequate attention from most people, including lawmakers and politicians. Most governors are worried about hypertension, diabetes and other physical illnesses.
Psychiatry now recognises that mental illnesses are diseases in the same sense as cancer and high blood pressure. They affect the brain, which is a vital organ just as the heart and liver.
In this country, we buried politicians who would have survived if mental health issues got the same attention as physical illnesses.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
It is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It affects one’s thinking, mood and behaviour.
People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the following feelings or behaviours, it can be an early warning sign of a problem: eating or sleeping too much or too little, pulling away from people and usual activities, having low or no energy, feeling numb or like nothing matters and having unexplained aches.
Other early signs include feeling helpless or hopeless, smoking, drinking or drug abuse, feeling unusually confused or forgetful, being worried or scared, yelling or fighting with family and friends, severe mood swings and thinking of harming yourself or others as well as inability to perform daily tasks, including taking care of yourself.
Leaving public office could also be one of the major issues that may affect most politicians. It is not easy to accept defeat.
Globally, we have heard cases of suicides due to failure to accept what may come after losing public office.
All these arise when we pay no attention to our mental ability on how to handle difficult situations.
Life is a vicious circle and the change from down to top is not unexpected. This is the reason it is important for politicians to take heed of their mental difficulties in a tricky political environment.
Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential; cope with the stress and worries that develop due to mix reactions after the results of elections; work productively and make meaningful a contribution to their communities.
Ways to maintain positive mental health include getting professional help and connecting with others, staying positive, getting physically active, helping others, getting enough sleep and developing coping skills.
Above all, politicians need to bear in mind that failure is inevitable. They need to accept defeat and move on with life. n