Mental Health for the Global Goals

This year, we are focusing on a theme of Healthy Not Hungry. At the Global Goals Australia Campaign, we look at health on five different levels. Today, we...

Mental Health for the Global Goals

This year, we are focusing on a theme of Healthy Not Hungry.

At the Global Goals Australia Campaign, we look at health on five different levels.

Today, we explore the incredibly important aspect of mental health.

Target 3.4 of the Global Goals requires that by 2030, we reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being. This target of Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being is the most direct reference to mental health in the entire 2030 Agenda.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in 2004-2005, 11% of all Australians reported they were currently suffering from a long-term mental or behavioural problem. Half of these people also reported to have mood problems, and 46% reported to suffer from anxiety-related issues. These statistics increased over the last three surveys from 1995 to 2005.

In the 1997 Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 suffered from the highest rates of mental disorders with approximately 27% of young Australians reported to have been suffering from such a condition.

Living in poverty has a profound affect on our mental health, especially in terms of stress. That is why it is vital we achieve Goal 1: No Poverty in order to ensure good mental health for all Australians. Adults living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas experience a higher prevalence of mental or behavioural problems – around 16% – and report a greater rate of high or very high levels of psychological distress – around 20%. This is compared to those who live in the least socioeconomically disadvantaged areas who experience a lower prevalence of mental or behavioural problems – around 9% – and report a lower rate of high or very high levels of psychological distress – around 8%.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger includes a focus on nutrition in Targets 2.1 and 2.2. Diet is a key to ensuring good mental health. A collaboration between University of Melbourne and Deakin University revealed that there is growing evidence demonstrating a vital relationship between good nutrition and mental well-being. To find out more about nutrition in Australia and recommendations, check out our article: Time to Get off the Sofa to Achieve Goal 3!

Next, we turn our attention back to Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. As stated two weeks ago in our article on Physical Health for the Global Goals, Goal 3 takes a holistic approach to physical health, including looking indirectly at exercise. In the 2004 – 2005 National Health Survey, 75% of those with mental and behavioural problems who were aged 15 years or over participated in minimal levels of exercise (sedentary or low exercise level). Those who reported a high or very high level of psychological distress were also more likely to engage in only sedentary or low levels of exercise than those who did not report a high or very high level of psychological distress (48% compared with 31%).

Target 3.5 looks at strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol. In the 2004 – 2005 survey, adults who reported mental or behavioural problems were more likely to drink at a level which brought risk to their health in the long-term, demonstrating the importance of the link between mental health and well-being and substance abuse.

Target 3.a aims to strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 32% of adults who reported mental or behavioural problems also reported currently smoking daily, compared to 20% of those without mental or behavioural problems. Similarly, those who reported a high or very high level of psychological distress were more likely to smoke daily (35%) than those who did not report a high or very high level of psychological distress.

Aside from the points made above, there is also an overwhelming correlation between general physical health and mental health. In 2004 – 2005, those reporting mental or behavioural problems aged 15 years or over were three times more likely to report fair or poor health (36%) than those without mental or behavioural problems (14%).

One of the targets in Goal 4: Quality Education, Target 4.a, requires that we build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all. It is important to note here that the term ‘disability’ includes those with a mental disability or a mental health problem. Our schools and education facilities must be built accordingly and teachers must be trained to be able to work with students with such conditions and make provisions where necessary.

Goal 5: Gender Equality is also an important part of assessing our progress towards the achievement of the Global Goals when it comes to mental health. In the 2004 – 2005 National Health Survey conducted by the ABS, it was shown that females were more likely than males to report a long-term mental or behavioural problem and more likely to report high or very high levels of psychological distress than men. This is not to say that females are more likely to suffer from such conditions; however, it also raises the question over the societal standards when it comes to men and mental health, given we tell young boys to “stop being such a girl” when they cry or express emotion. The Global Goals Australia Campaign looks forward to seeing the changes in statistics when the next National Health Survey data is released by the ABS as there has been an outstanding amount of work over the last 10 years in awareness and advocacy around men’s mental health.

Mental health also plays a significant role in the achievement of Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities as societal discrimination can be a risk factor for stresses placed on one’s mental health.

What do you think is the most important aspect of mental health? Share your thoughts with us today!