We usually talk about our physical health and often take medicines to cure what is physically visible. When we are sick, people tend to look for physical ailments and not mental. But the truth is that we can be sick mentally too. Mental health is as important as physical health and it does affect you in every stage of life.
What exactly is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our thought patterns, our social life, our feelings, emotions and actions depend on our overall mental health. A healthy mind can handle stress better than an unhealthy one. It can also help you make better choices and decisions in life. That doesn’t mean that a mentally sick person cannot function properly. There is professional help available if you or your loved one has a mental illness and it can be cured completely.
What causes Mental Health problems?
While anything can trigger mental problems, some of the common causes are related to biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry. Many people with a history of troubled family background often experience similar problems, have anxiety issues or depression. Big life experiences that cause trauma or a shock can often cause mental problems like depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, eating disorders etc. Some people who face physical abuse during any stage of life, example childhood, also face mental challenges.
Types of Mental Disorders
There are hundreds of mental disorders, but here are the common issues we often hear about:
- Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia)
- Eating disorders
- Trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD)
- Substance abuse disorders
Mental illness can occur to anyone at any stage of life, irrespective of gender and age. We cannot tell by looking at someone if he or she has a disorder, or any other mental illness. The worst part is that the world expects people with mental illness to behave normally and see them negatively. Social stigma and discrimination can make mental health problems worse and stop a person from getting the help they need. We need to be more compassionate towards such people and understand that they are going through bigger challenges, they face bigger storms than what we can imagine.
Making excuses to stay away from a social gathering, having mood swings, not having appetite for any kind of food, not wanting to step out of your house, pulling away from people, not getting enough sleep could be signs of a mental illness.
The diagnosis of mental illness can be controversial. Not everyone considers every sign to be part of sickness. However, if you think you or anyone you know shows following sign(s), consider it to be an early warning for mental illness:
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Distancing or pulling away from people and usual activities
- Energy levels are zero or very low
- Feeling of numbness or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Too much confusion; you are more forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Desire or thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
Talk it Out
Often people with any kind of problem like depression, anxiety etc find it difficult to talk about it. Not everyone is capable of understanding what you are going through. Therefore it is important for you to identify and trust the person you would like to open up to. You may find support in your family, your partner, your best friend or even your employer. There is always professional help available and reach out to a healthcare specialist if you think the situation is going out of control or if you have no one to talk to.
What NOT to say to someone with a mental health issue
It takes a lot of effort on someone going through the storms within to talk about their inner feelings. Therefore it is important to give them your full ear and hear it out. Do not interrupt or say “I know how you feel” because you really don’t feel. Do not brush aside their feelings terming them as misconceptions or just a phase that will pass. Do not blame them for their behaviour, it is not their weakness and shouldn’t define them. Most importantly, if you have no solution, be compassionate and guide them to a healthcare professional. The least you can do is be non-judgemental.
Mental Health week is from May 4- May 10, 2020. During this pandemic and amid lockdown, many people are going through mental sickness, or are discovering their real self. If you think you are finding it difficult to cope with the current situation, or if you think you do have a mental health issue, please do not hesitate in getting in touch with a healthcare professional or a close friend. Remember, you can get all the help you need and you can feel better and positive.
Mental illness is treatable, and most people with mental illness recover to live productive and happy lives.
For self-assessment of your mental health, click here:
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversations!”
Written by Manali Arora