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RC Students Sound Off On International Mental Health


Written by Jessica Shelburne

Emotional and psychological disorders affect humans everywhere. No one is exempt from the mental pressures that accompany this life regardless of race, ethnicity or affiliation. However, the way these disorders are perceived in countries across the globe determines how seriously they are taken, and the methods of treatment that are available, or not, to cure them.

Although access to healthcare is certainly unequal in America, the discussion about mental health is vast and people are given many opportunities to receive treatment such as therapy or medication. Mental health is considered legitimate, and there is generally high value placed on psychological wellness.

However, various other countries do not place as much emphasis on this topic. Rwanda, Northern Ireland and the Virgin Islands are among several countries that are lacking in sufficient resources for mental health issues to be effectively treated.

Rwanda upholds a notoriously conservative culture, which equates to little discussion of feelings or personal matters to ensure that the family name is not disrespected. Mental health is an issue of lesser importance than other pressing concerns within the developing medical system. Advancements in surgical techniques, operative equipment and medication for other chronic illnesses are the primary objectives for improving the medical system, allotting minimal funds towards mental health resources.

Emotional disorders including depression and anxiety are only considered truly legitimate among survivors of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. There are special communities constructed for these individuals that offer counseling and regular checkups to ease reintegration into modern society.

The younger and upcoming generations in Rwanda typically seek education elsewhere, where they receive recent information current events, including mental health, to take back to their home country with a hope to influence progression.

“It is important for younger generations to bring awareness to the presence of feelings and personal hardships,” said freshman Vanessa Mutesi, Rwandan native.

Northern Ireland faces a similar struggle in receiving necessary treatment for mental health issues. There is insufficient funding to provide beneficial resources to treat those struggling with psychological disorders, meaning there are few clinics or support groups for individuals seeking help.

Like many other countries, Northern Ireland doesn’t regard mental health as an issue of major importance which is why many patients are placed on waiting lists for months before getting a chance to be seen by a physician.

“Nonprofit organizations are responsible for most activism and progression [regarding mental health],” said Grace Boyle, international student from Northern Ireland studying abroad at Roanoke.

Although mental health is taken seriously in the United States, the US Virgin Islands territory and surrounding Caribbean islands do not regard it similarly. Mental health issues are dismissed by older generations and not considered legitimate concerns. Medicinal treatment is most often located outside of the Caribbean and individuals are encouraged to seek out herbal or cultural remedies if they suffer from emotional disorders, essentially expected to resolve it themselves.

“Younger generations definitely feel the pressure of mental health more than the older ones. It’s an enormous issue because kids don’t know how to deal with issues like depression and their parents just shrug it off,”said sophomore Shakil Persad, Virgin Island native.

Through efforts such as governmental reform, activism and the spread of information and education, the Earth in her entirety may one day appropriately address this issue of increasing concern with a mindset to resolve the problems that hinder the well-being of individuals suffering from emotional disorders everywhere.

In the meantime, the most that we can all do is support our fellow humans by treating others with kindness and respect for their personal hardships.