Mental health in Australia
Public health systems have an aim of aiding in the prevention of diseases in a country. Many diseases affect the society some of which are non-infectious chronic diseases, while others are infectious. Some of the diseases affect majority of the population in certain countries.Mental health is usually described as the way in which individuals feel, think or act as they cope with life situations. It is very important to stay mentally healthy through every stage of life. Mental illness may be as a result of disorders which are common. This paper will discuss the health care system in Australia in regard to mental health as a major concern.
Statistics on the effect of mental health illness in Australia
More than 20% of Australians suffer from mental illness at least ones in their lives. Some suffer from more than one form of the same. Around 20000 Australians are diagnosed of mental illness annually which raises concern within the health system. At least three million out of these get depressive illness while five percent suffer from anxiety. Others suffer from schizophrenia while others go through serious psychotic illnesses (1).
There have been surveys done showing that one in every five Australians is affected by mental illness. In this category, women report more on cases of anxiety and affective disorders than men. Men however, are more likely to have disorders that are as a result of substance abuse such as alcohol. They are also more prone to schizophrenia .It has also been noted that compulsive disorders are very common in both sexes with at least 90% of eating disorders occurring among women (2).
Populations most affected by mental illness are around the ages of 18 to 24 with at least 14% of children below 17years being affected by problems of mental health (2). Conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders however occur after teenage hood with adolescents exhibiting use of drugs or high rate of suicidal thoughts. It has been noted that culture affects the access to medication since those individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds can’t access health services as often as those in the mainstream population (2).Mental health illnesses have been shown to be the main cause of absenteeism in the work place in Australia. It is estimated that at least six million days of working are lost each year due to cases resulting from mental health illnesses. It makes up at least 30% of disability claims in the country which translates to $15 annually (2). It has also been observed that disability or acquiring of other disorders can increase the chances of suicide and depression in people who are older and come from diverse cultural backgrounds. It is estimated that in 2003-2004, mental health accounted for 12% of the days spent in hospital by patients’ (3). The diagnosis for depressive disorders amounted to around 36% of hospitalizations while schizophrenia recorded the highest number of separations being 11% (3).
No difference has been found while comparing populations in the rural areas and those who live in the urban parts of Australia in regards to mental health. Research however, has revealed that males in the urban areas suffer more from mental illnesses as a result of substance use. Most people have misconceptions about mental health due to low education or inadequate information. Some believe that those who are mentally ill are violent yet as research has shown those with mental disorders usually have no history of violent behavior (2). It is also misconceived that mental illness cannot be cured yet it has been observed that most people suffering from it recover quickly if they get medicated on time. There are various forms of mental illnesses and these affect people across diverse cultures.
Types of mental problems
A number of mental disorders are common in Australia and anxiety disorder is one of them. Those suffering from anxiety disorders dread certain objects or situations and respond with nervousness. Anxiety disorder is easily diagnosed if the individual’s reaction to a situation is not appropriate. Anxiety could thus cause interference with the individual’s normal functioning. Various forms include post traumatic stress, generalized anxiety, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorders (4). Certain phobias may also be included in the list. Mental illness could also take the form of mood disorders. These include depression, mania and bipolar disorders. These disorders may result to suicidal and self harm tendencies if untreated.
Psychotic disorders are also a common occurrence in the Australian population. They involve distorted thinking and awareness. Hallucinations are one form of psychotic disorder and occur when the individual sees images or hears sounds that are not real (4). It is mainly influenced by substance abuse or other diseases that affect the brain.
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders are also considered as mental illnesses as they involve a lot of emotion and have a great impact on the individual’s life. Bulimia itself, involves bingeing on food then purging and can lead to gum disease, osteoporosis, heart disease, kidney disease or death (5).Others suffer from impulse control and addiction disorders such as kleptomania which is an impulse to steal, and pyromania a compulsion to start fires, which all pose harm to the individual and others(4). These compulsions are also usually accompanied by use of drugs.
Factors that cause mental illnesses
There are a number of factors that lead to development of mental illnesses. One of them is genetics. Scientific research, has shown that mental illness is sometimes an inherited condition and may affect an individual if some one in the family also suffers from the same(6). In most cases, it is usually dormant and is triggered by a number of factors such as stress, abuse, or traumatic events.
Some infections can also lead to mental illness by causing brain damage. An example is infection by streptococcus bacteria leading to pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatry disorder which affects children (7).Brain injury through accidents may also result in mental illness. Treatment should be sought for all injuries on the head to avoid such complications.
Prenatal disruption of the brain development has also been shown to be a cause for the mental illnesses witnessed in Australia. Autism is said to be caused by poor flow of oxygen to the brain of the developing fetus (8). Another factor is poor nutrition as a result of poverty or intake of drugs. Psychological factors such as trauma in childhood, neglect, early loss of parents and sexual abuse have all been shown to have an effect on the mental health of an individual. Environmental factors such as cultural expectations have also been shown to cause metal illness when the individual is under pressure or stress.
Intake of drugs such as alcohol, smoking, and use of hallucinogens has also been a major factor contributing to mental illness in the population. Some of these drugs are illegal and the consequences of using them lead to adverse brain damage as individuals become dependent on the drugs the individuals may thus find it hard to seek help as the continue in the use of the drugs(8) .This is usually the case among the young adults and teenagers. The result is that the individual begins having memory loss, hallucinations, and may even die as a result of the same.