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  • Ankur Sachdev

Understanding Mental Health and Mental Illness

National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences, Bengaluru, surveyed in 2015-2016. The survey covered twelve states and 34,802 individuals participated in it. The report published based on this survey concluded that mental health is a serious issue as it can affect anyone irrespective of their income, gender, age, and culture, to name a few examples.

This makes the topic very important.

Understanding Mental Health and Mental Illness
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"Mental Health is fundamental to our collective & individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection, and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities, and societies throughout the world.", World Health Organization.

Let us understand what is mental health and what is mental illness

Is getting angry a sign of a mental disorder? Is crying over a situation a sign of depression? Is reading alone in a library a sign of asocial activity?

No, it is not as it could be a one-time reaction to an incident or it could be a choice to stay alone & read a book. There is a need to worry if a rapid change is observed in someone's personality and it continues for a long time.

Anything related to a person's emotions, decision making, stress handling, and/or basic social functioning is mental health. If a person is facing any issue related to any of them for a long time then there is a chance that he/she is suffering from mental illness. Mental illness may be caused due to biological factors or due to some horrible life experiences. It is often associated with discrimination of any kind, stressful environment at home or the office, social exclusion, unexpected changes in social life at a fast rate, physical illness, and damaging lifestyle.

In most cases, mental illness affects how one handles stressful situations or the capability to make a rational decision. It is a part of the health sector that has many professionals dealing with such cases every day. But now there is a need to talk about it in other sectors too.

Types of Mental Illness or Disorder

Six types of disorders/illnesses are related to mental health. These are as follows:

1. Mood Disorders

This is concerned with excessive mood swings and it includes depression and bipolar disorder. A person may suddenly start to cry while laughing, or a person may suddenly get angry.

2. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This is triggered by a terrifying life event like a business failure, loss of a loved one, divorce, or an accident. A person suffering from PTSD faces a difficult time coping/adjusting to life.

3. Eating Disorder

An instant need of eating more, eating less, or not eating at all forms a part of mental illness. It is comparatively easy to observe in a person. Eating disorder either leads to excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss, both of which are unhealthy not just for the mind but also for the body.

4. Personality Disorder

This may be either influenced by the surroundings or an inherited characteristic. According to American Psychiatric Association, this affects:

  • how and what one thinks about himself/herself;

  • how one relates to other people including a character portrayed by an actor;

  • how one responds to others emotionally; and,

  • how one controls his/her behavior in public & private places.

5. Anxiety Disorder

If someone worries to an extent that it interferes with his/her daily tasks, then that person may be suffering from mental illness. This also includes exaggerated or irrational phobias that cause panic attacks like fear of height or fear of being in a closed room.

6. Psychotic Disorder

This often occurs due to schizophrenia. The psychotic disorder mostly affects the mind and is characterized by a disconnection from reality.

Identifying the symptoms of mental illness

Identifying an illness is important if one wants to cure it. Any illness that goes unnoticed causes serious problems to everyone - patient, family, relatives, friends, and/or special relations.

Even though there are six types of mental illnesses/disorders, each one of them has some symptoms in common. These are the symptoms that we will talk about.

Here is how you can identify if someone around you is suffering from mental illness:

1. Routine

The normal routine of a person would be severely affected. If a person has a habit of going to sleep at, say, 10 pm then you would observe that the person either sleeps late or does not sleep during the night at all. The routine also includes the habit of going for a walk or a workout session.

2. Isolation

A person who does not mind being around people would suddenly isolate himself/herself. He/She would avoid participating in a public gathering or sitting with his/her family members. This should not be confused with the choice that introverts make. Hence, it is recommended to notice their mood too.

3. Self-harm

This is one of the most dangerous thoughts that cross the mind of a person who is not doing well. This includes self-violence and suicide. In one way or another, they would talk about hurting themselves. The internet, at this stage, becomes a curse as such people search for ways to kill/hurt themselves. Excessive drug abuse is also a part of self-harm.

4. Unstable emotions

This means having too many mood swings. Being worried or upset is normal but if this continues for a long time then the person needs immediate attention. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit this part of people very hard especially those who have lost their job or whose business has either closed or is at risk of shutting down. These people may vent out their anger frequently.

5. Intense physical fear

People may develop an intense fear related to their appearance. They may also develop an intense fear related to their weight wherein they are concerned either about gaining a lot of weight or about losing a lot of weight. A person may develop an intense physical fear if he/she is insulted a lot of times.

6. Significant changes

Any significant change in someone's behavior, thought process, and/or emotion is a sign of worry. There is a chance that the person is under someone's negative influence. A person who goes through a significant change lacks insight into how his/her behavior affects others. These people find such changes to be a normal part of their life even though they are not. Someone who respects elders a lot starts to ignore them in their pain and refuses to believe that he/she is wrong. This is an example of a significant change.

7. Frequent nightmares

Our brain works every second. This includes the time when we are asleep. Our brain is known to communicate with us during our sleep in the form of a dream. People who worry a lot see similar nightmares. Nightmares, however, are more common among children. To state a simple example, a kid who just got bit by a dog would dream about being surrounded by dogs trying to attack him/her.

8. Unexplained aches and pains

Some pains can be explained like after you get hit by something or after you twist your ankle. Sometimes some pains cannot be explained like the ones in the stomach, back, head, chest, or muscle. Such pains signal mental illness but since they cannot be explained, doctors often fail to diagnose that the person is suffering from mental illness. Robert D. Keeley, an MD & a study researcher at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, studied two hundred patients in 2004 and said in the report that unless the patients were screened specifically for depression, it was hard for some doctors to pick that up as depression.

Curing mental illness/disorder

People often give up on those who are suffering from a serious illness - physical or mental. That should not even be the last thing to do. Every illness has a cure just like every problem has a solution.

We have reviewed the symptoms that are common in every type of mental illness. Now let us review some common ways to cure them.

Here's what to do if someone around you is suffering from mental illness/disorder:

1. Consult a professional

Talking to a professional should not be considered as a sign that the patient is 'mental'. Medical professionals treat mental illness and help a patient to live a healthy life. A professional may be your family doctor (a general physician), a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. At this point, note that there is a difference between a psychologist & a psychiatrist. A psychologist deals with the thought process and behavior of a person while a psychiatrist digs a little deeper by looking at abnormalities related to biology, neurology, and biochemical.

Professionals know how to treat a patient. In case of mental illness, they either prescribe medicine or use therapy sessions. The sessions generally include one-to-one counseling, group discussions, and/or activities.

2. Create a supportive environment

This pertains to the conditions that are created by family members & friends and extend to the workplace. Elders and superiors must encourage everyone to share their emotions. They should make sure that they are available to talk and that these talks are open and honest. This will lead to a more happy relationship and more productive output.

A supportive environment also establishes a supportive network. Include all the loved ones in the supportive network and communicate with each other regularly. There is a chance that something has been shared with someone but not with others. Communication regularly helps to keep track. Everyone, literally everyone, may not care to participate in this environment but if the loved ones do not take any action then it will surely affect others on a large scale.

Keep in mind that elders and superiors may also need your support. The process to create a supportive work environment requires efforts from both sides.

Taking care of mental health

It is time to break the stigma and realize that taking care of mental health is one of the important parts of life. It will not happen automatically. Taking care of mental health requires efforts just like taking care of physical health does.

Some people avoid ice-creams as they catch a cold, some people avoid peanut butter as they are allergic to it, and some people avoid certain food items as they are unable to digest them. Similarly, there are a few dos and don'ts to keep in mind to take care of mental health.

Here's what one should do:

1. Childhood intervention

Observe every behavior of your child and notice their activities, especially in their free time. They lack important life experiences. Hence, they are often unable to express the issues that they are facing. They may also be unaware of what is happening to them. Talk to them regularly, provide them a stable environment without domestic violence & fights, and work to develop their coping skills. Childhood intervention must also be a part of an activity at every school as that is where they learn the most.

Remain involved in their life by talking about emotions. A little bit of emotional encouragement will go a long way and help them to live a healthy life.

2. Time-Out sessions

We live in the times when expenses have no limit. This makes everyone work more than they should. A desire to earn more money and achieve success takes over. There is nothing wrong with working hard to achieve success but anything in excess ruins one's health. Take some time out, go on a vacation, sit with your family to have a conversation, meet your friends, and know that there is a lot to live for than work. This will help give you a better perspective and help you to achieve success faster.

A calm mind sees better than a stormy mind.

3. Remain active

Fill up a gym membership form and make it a regular habit to exercise. If you cannot afford a gym membership, then go for a walk. You may also take up yoga or any other physical activity. This does not just take care of your physical health but it also takes care of your mental health. Mental Health Foundation (London) clearly states that participation in physical activity increases self-esteem and this affects mental health.

Participation in physical activity also helps to relieve stress. Stress, as we all know, affects our blood pressure and cholesterol level. So yes, remain physically active no matter what.

4. Empower

The literal meaning of 'Empower' is to make someone stronger and more confident especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. This includes strengthening the weak, promoting education, offering opportunities, and taking care of people. A situation can either break someone or make someone. In most cases, it breaks them physically and mentally.

To empower someone also means to appreciate them for their work, offering them a helping hand, giving them constructive feedback, leading a team by example, and helping them to achieve their goals.

5. House and Work environment

In the house, make sure to have a friendly and supportive environment, especially for children and elders. Children are naive and get stressed easily. This affects their mental health. Parents should focus on improving the behavior of their children. Improvement in behavior does not mean that children should not be allowed to play in the house. Keep an eye on them and make sure that their behavior and language remain clean. For elders, attempts should be made to keep them busy in one activity or another. It is also important for them to make new friends. Having a daily schedule and friends give them a sense of purpose. This boosts them emotionally and physically.

At work, relevant departments should take up the initiative of conducting a regular psychological evaluation. The evaluation may either be one-to-one or online, depending on the number of employees. This would also let them know if their employees are stressed or burdened.

Before i wrap up, please note that this post should only be used as a reference and not as a hard-core guide. The points that i have mentioned in this post will help you to identify, cure and prevent mental illness. Consult your doctor at the earliest if any symptom persists.

Also, if you have something personal to share, then feel free to do so in the comment section. You have an option to leave a comment as an anonymous person. Your name will neither appear publicly nor will i know who you are. Before publishing your comment, just make sure to leave your comment anonymously. You may leave your comment with your name too.

That is all for this topic.

If you have anything to contribute then kindly share it in the comment section. I would love to hear from you.



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