What is Mental Illness?June 17, 2019
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a concept that gets thrown around a lot recently but not many people truly understand. Not until the influx of news about the growing number of young people committing self-harm and suicide every year that grabbed everyone’s attention towards mental health issues. But what is the definition of mental illness and how can we raise awareness to fight the stigma surrounding it?
Mental illness is described as an array of conditions concerning abnormal thoughts, behaviour, and emotions that affect one’s self and their function in society. There are many types of mental health disorders, and many people around the world experience them. According to the Black Dog Institute, one in five Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year, and the most common amongst Australians include anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and substance use disorders.
Common Types of Mental Illness
- Anxiety. A person with anxiety disorder most likely experiences panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, and paralysing fears.
- Depression. A person with depression most likely feels extreme hopelessness, sadness, or emptiness that do not go away over time, and loss of interest over things they once enjoyed.
- Bipolar disorder. It is a psychological condition where a person experiences dramatic changes in mood and energy levels. At one end of the spectrum is the elevated mood or mania, and on the other end is depression.
- Schizophrenia. It is a severe mental disorder characterised by psychotic episodes like hallucination, delusions, and unreasonable beliefs and suspicions.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is a serious psychiatric condition triggered by traumatic events causing severe anxiety, violent behaviour, flashbacks, and nightmares, amongst others.
If a person experiences physical illness, numerous manifestations in the body can be observed such as discomfort, swelling, discolouration, deformity, dysfunction, and so on. Mental illness is different –it is not easily detected and the people suffering from it oftentimes keep to themselves in fear of discrimination, mockery, and being denied access to opportunities. The lack of emotional support and coping mechanisms could be harmful and lead to extreme cases like self-harm and suicide.
Fighting the Stigma
Mental illness can be treated and managed. It should not be looked at as a weakness, but rather a condition that a person can overcome.
- Engage in conversations. The more you talk about mental illness, the more it becomes easier to understand and debunk any misconceptions.
- Be mindful of language. Avoid using words that could hurt other people’s feelings. Also, avoid making assumptions and be mindful of the intention.
- Show compassion. Do not be quick to judge and always try to put yourself in other people’s situation.
- Be observant. Look out for queues such as social withdrawal, mood changes, language, and other physical manifestations of mental illness such as weight loss and neglecting hygiene, and ask if they need help.
- Educate yourself. Read available information about mental illness, including the available mental health facilities, counselling services, and the suicide hotlines to contact in your area.
- Stand up for others. Part of suffering from a psychological disorder is not being able to stand up for themselves. Be the champion for their cause and encourage others to be more accepting and understanding of mental health conditions.
At Ubuntu Medical we also provide Mental Health Care.