Why Is Mental Health Awareness So Important?
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
As per an article published by WHO, 1 in 4 people, across the world, has experienced some sort of mental disorder at some stage in their lives.
The best way to deal with mental conditions is to be able to acknowledge them as we do physical diseases and then work on a treatment plan.
Dismissing a mental condition as imaginary or ‘just a phase’ can prove detrimental to the patient’s recovery.
Unfortunately, in many countries, especially in Asian societies, we have a negative connotation attached to mental disorders. People are often stigmatized and ridiculed socially for seeking professional help. Nothing can prove more damaging to a mental health patient.
To develop a more tolerant and aware society its important for us to understand the various mental conditions in some detail.
To start off, we need to understand that mental disorders fall on a wide spectrum of levels ranging from mild conditions to severely debilitating illnesses.
Now let’s begin by taking a closer look at the following questions and answers.
Who is considered mentally healthy?
Anyone who can function properly in their daily activities, foster meaningful relationships and communicate their feelings to each other could be termed as mentally healthy. He/she would be optimistic about life, energetic, focussed, have clarity of thought and would have no problems navigating difficult social situations.
What Does Having A Difficult Time Mean?
This is usually when someone is acting out of character, suffering from negative thoughts & feelings that are a direct outcome of specific incidents in their life. Such phases would usually last no more than a couple of weeks. All of us at some point in our lives would have experienced a difficult time. This doesn’t qualify as a mental disorder
What is a Mental Health Condition?
When a person is having negative thoughts and feelings to the extent that it impacts their normal functioning in life, he can be said to be suffering from a mental health condition. Mood swings, emotional outbursts, difficulty concentrating, increased levels of agitation, social withdrawal and lack of clear thinking are all indications of mental health conditions. Such individuals could recover soon or could go on to develop long term mental illness.
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a generic term that groups together several mental disorders. These disorders come with various physical and psychological symptoms. They typically cause a host of negative behaviours led by troubling thoughts and feelings that impacts a person’s life significantly and can continue for a long time or even be lifelong.
Social stigma, lack of awareness and fear are the usual deterrents that prevent us from approaching mental disorders in a constructive manner in both our personal and professional lives. Hence it is important to get familiar with the various mental issues and understand when to seek help.
Busting Some Myths:
Myth #1: People with mental conditions are violent
Fact: They are, in fact, more prone to suffering violence from society and ending up as self-harm victims given the rampant negative attitude that exists in our society around mental disorders.
Myth#2: Mental disorders happen only to weak people
Fact: Mental conditions can affect anyone. These disorders arise due to a whole host of biological, genetic and social reasons and certainly not due to any character flaws. In fact, speaking up about one’s battle with mental illness is a determinant of great moral and mental strength.
Myth#3: Mental Disorders are All Same
Fact: Mental disorders are just like physical diseases. Just as you wouldn’t club cancer and HIV as the same disease, so too you should learn to differentiate schizophrenia from bipolar disorder or insomnia from anorexia.
3 Most Common Mental Health Conditions:
The estimated number of people suffering from anxiety is approximately 264 million, ie 3 out of every 100 people in the world suffer from this condition. Also, another interesting observation shows women are more susceptible to anxiety attacks compared to men.
All of us experience anxiety almost regularly in our daily lives. Imagine walking up on the stage to give your first speech in front of a large audience, or meeting your online date for the first time or waiting at the doctor’s for your medical reports – we have all been in such situations. The familiar racing heart, clammy palms and cold shiver down the spine are all perfectly normal physical response to situations that we consider to have the potential for negative results.
The problem starts when such feelings become habitual and fail to subside. People with anxiety disorders would keep experiencing anxious feelings even after the initial trigger has been removed. They would simply move on to a different topic to start feeling anxious about. This they do without consciously planning to. Managing their daily life becomes a problem and they fail to think rationally.
Symptoms of Anxiety:
Worrying uncontrollably all or most of the time
Fretting over seemingly insignificant things that may appear trivial to others
Constantly imagining worst-case scenarios
Finding it difficult to think rationally
Experiencing insomnia, nightmares, palpitations, sweaty hands or upset stomach
A person would be diagnosed as suffering from anxiety if such symptoms persist for more than 6 months. There can be many anxiety disorders including OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders), various kinds of phobias and panic disorders.
Causes of anxiety disorders:
Genetics play an important role. If this condition exists in the family history, the chances of a person developing the same could increase
Specific stressful situations in life like the death of a loved one, job loss or a romantic break up
Predisposition to alcohol or drug abuse could cause anxiety disorders as well
This happens when people start using drugs including prescribed ones and alcohol in such a high dose that it starts harming their social and personal lives. It affects their work and social relations. They typically get addicted to these substances and fail to recognize their addiction.
Some physical symptoms include:
Slurred speech or tremors
Unexplained health problems including weight loss, hair fall etc
Deterioration in physical appearance and hygiene
Emotional signs include :
Sudden mood swings and sudden personality changes including aggression, generalized withdrawal etc
While all of us have been through days when we have felt sad, down or uninspired, for people suffering from depression, these feelings and thoughts keep growing and show no signs of reducing across months and years. Depression could range from mild to severe and includes the following symptoms.
Thoughts: Negative, despairing thoughts keep overwhelming a person suffering from depression. Statements like ‘I am a failure’ or ‘ I can never be good at anything’ keep playing in their head in a loop.
Feelings: They start feeling dejected, angry, irritable and unhappy at all times
Behaviour: Such feelings result in social withdrawal, poor concentration, lack of interest in healthy activities and taking to drug abuse
Physical: Physical symptoms could range from headaches, weight loss, lack of appetite and frequently feeling tired
Some of the most important factors that can lead to depression:
Life events which are difficult as a death in the family, break up with a romantic partner, job loss etc
Genetics could play an important role. Previous history of depression in the family could be an important determinant of whether or not you are at risk of developing the disease
Personality traits like cynicism, pessimism, having low self-esteem etc could contribute largely to depression
Prolonged substance abuse can often lead to chronic depression
This article aims to create awareness among people regarding mental health issues. Awareness is extremely important to create a conducive society for people suffering from mental disorders.
We need to develop positive feelings of empathy, compassion and care towards mental health patients to put them back on their track to recovery. We also need to be able to refer the person to a competent mental health practitioner when required.
We need to remember that mental health issues are as real as a physical disorder like a heart attack or a fever. Timely professional intervention, a solid network of support and a positive attitude can help patients recover faster and get back to their normal lives.