The A to Z of health checkups

Doctors and health professionals worldwide advise us to get an annual health checkup done, especially after we cross a certain age. But these checkups hardly ever consider the "Up".

Hospitals and even insurance companies make available a health check with results to be discussed with doctors.

Typically these health checks include blood and cholesterol, routine urine and stool tests, occasionally a stress test, maybe sonography, and for those of a particular disposition, a prostate examination too.

What is missing in this entire gamut of testing? Mental health! The "Up" in health checkup!

Increasingly, conversations around mental health are getting normalised around the world. Nodal agencies and regulatory bodies are also playing their part in bringing mental health into the spotlight.

With increased attention has come increased research and, consequently, a better understanding of the state of mental health around the world.

What would've been dismissed as laziness or incompetence just a mere 10 years ago is now being understood, if not accepted, for the debilitating condition it often is.

Anxiety, Depression, and Stress are all conditions that can leave those affected without the ability to properly communicate what ails them. And these ailments are accretive. Left untreated, they compound into even more severe and often untreatable conditions. Depression, for example, is a known pathway to dementia. Loss of cognition and brain function are common side effects of mental health conditions.

And mental health conditions are not a rarity. Not anymore. With taboos being shed around the spectrum of illnesses that comprise mental health, people are resorting to diagnoses earlier and earlier. Earlier this year, in its World Mental Health Report, the WHO said 1 in 8 people worldwide is living with a mental health condition. That figure, from 2019, has been surpassed manifold, with Covid playing a massive part in upping that number past a billion people globally. Pandemic? Indeed!

What has not changed, though, is resource allocation and access to treatment and the ability to pay for those treatments. The same WHO report says governments around the world allot 2% of their health budgets to mental health. And the health budget itself, in most LMICs, is below 10% of the country's overall budget. No surprise then that 7 in 10 people with a mental health condition don't receive the treatment they need. Also no surprise that suicide is among the leading mortality causes around the world.

What needs changing? Social and cultural mores still need to come up to speed with the reality of mental health, normalising the conversation even further.

Governments and health bodies need to amp up awareness and outreach campaigns, ensuring people with mental health conditions know that a cure is possible and accessible. Governments also need to significantly ramp up budgetary health allocations.

Most importantly, health needs to become a holistic term, with no distinction between physical health and mental health.

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