9.1 Mental health as a public health priority in Ethiopia
We will start by defining two terms that will be important for all the mental health study sessions in this module:
Mental health can be defined as ‘a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’. (World Health Organization)
Mental illnesses occur in the absence of mental health, and are generally characterised by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
Sometimes people ask the question ‘why is mental health important in Ethiopia when people are dying from illness and poverty?’ or they may say ‘mental health is a luxury for the West’. These attitudes come about from ignorance and the stigma that surrounds mental illness. In the following subsections we will show you why we need to tackle mental illness in Ethiopia.