THE IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING BOTH PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH IN A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE WORLD by Helen Gayle
AN EPIDEMIC OF POOR HEALTH
It has been widely established by several independent reputable reports that health is central to sustainable development. Without a focus on good global health it would not be possible to achieve the principal goals of eradication of extreme poverty, social inclusion for all members of diverse communities, environmental sustainability (the goal which receives the most media attention, particularly in high income countries) and good governance. When we think of health, we often think of physical ailments and, when thinking of low income countries, of the effects of conditions such as HIV and AIDs or the physical effects of extreme poverty. However it is not just maintaining physical health that is essential for sustainable development but maintaining mental health too.
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE ON THE RISE
The World Health Organisation estimates that one in four people across the world will experience some form of mental health condition in their lifetime and that an almost unimaginable 600 million people worldwide are disabled as a consequence of their mental health conditions. Mental health disorders are having a significant effect on the economic and social stability of those people suffering from them and their families, and whilst global awareness and acceptance of mental health disorders are increasing, their prevalence is not decreasing, and nor are the treatment options for the variety of conditions experienced improving, particularly in low and middle income countries where access to health services and medical treatment is often restricted. The impact mental health disorders are having on wider global society is increasing, with mortality being much higher in low, medium and even high income countries where there is a high percentage of individuals suffering from mental health problems. What’s more, in a large number of countries across the globe, discrimination and stigmatism is still rife towards those who suffer from mental health problems. Only by making progress on mental health one of the post 2015 sustainable development goals can we really focus on working towards solving this issue and improving the lives of those who suffer with mental health issues globally.
THE IMPACT OF THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
The idea that maintaining environmental and personal health should go hand in hand is valid in more ways than one. The advancement of the medical industry has actually had a negative impact on the environment in many parts of the world. Without good all round physical and mental health, many communities are seeing their use of pharmaceutical drugs increase considerably. In America alone, 47.8% of the population have reported using at least one prescription drug in any given 30 day period. 10.6% of the population reported that they were using five or more different prescription drugs every 30 day period. The more this pharmaceutical drug use continues to rise, the more pharmaceutical waste is likely to make its way into our waters and atmosphere, ultimately increasing the negative impact on the environment. Focusing on good health and ensuring that as large a proportion of the population remain fit and healthy without any form of pharmaceutical support, therefore, is as important to post 2015 sustainability as the much more widely reported focus on climate change and other environmentally based issues.