Dr. John Steytler
Dr. John Steytler

Make mental health a priority

Dr. John Steytler
The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. The theme of 2022's commemoration, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is 'Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority'.

Realising that this day is coming up reminded me that I had not written anything about this important subject in a very long time. This is sadly indicative of how we care for our mental health, or rather how neglectful we are of it. We are so busy with day-to-day things that we never make mental health a priority.

Therefore, the focus is on making mental health and well-being a priority for everyone, right across the globe.

We all know Namibia faces many challenges. Just keeping your head above water, food on the table and getting back to normal in a post-pandemic world is hard enough. According to statistics released by the ministry of health and social services, the country's suicide rate between January 2021 and May 2022 stood at 679, comprising 559 men, 91 women and 29 children. Those are appalling statistics for our small population, but yet says nothing about the lives and families destroyed.

What is clear and very shocking is that the vast majority of suicides are amongst men.

How do we find the time to look after our mental health? It is imperative that we make mental health a priority. In Namibia, we suffer from many challenges that developing nations suffer from and sometimes it seems as if there’s no end to the issues. Whether it is gender-based violence (GBV), child neglect, alcohol and drug abuse or the far too many suicides. There are many factors that cause these problems, but not dealing with stress and mental health issues in a proper manner is certainly a root cause.

It became vital for my own well-being to re-examine how I approach my life and work; stress and anxiety became a problem. It was only when I started reading up on it that I realised something needed to change for me to find the balance in my life I was seeking. This was not easy to do, as we are taught as boys, adolescents and as men that we do not talk about feelings, the pressure we feel and certainly not about being overwhelmed. Rather, we drink our feelings away, we have mood swings, or worse - we end up killing ourselves. As the statistics clearly demonstrate.

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals include goal three, which focuses on good health and well-being. Mental health is a major part of improving well-being, and that is why World Mental Health Day is so important.

If we want to create a just, equal and prosperous society, we need to take care of our mental health too. This isn’t easy, but there are a few things that can be done to ease the journey to better mental health. I personally try and embrace each of these pointers and they truly have helped me.

• Connect with other people

• Be physically active

• Give and be there for others

• Learn new skills

• Live in the ‘now’ and reflect on what you have and what is going well in your life.

These are just a few suggestions - there are many more ways to improve your mental health, but taking these initial steps will already mean you are making your mental health a priority. That is already a major personal victory.


Namibian Sun 2022-11-27

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