Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
The world health organization has now recognized mental health disorders as “a major contributor to the global burden of disease.” That means mental health disorders constitute part of the diseases that are largely contributing to high death rates as well as disabilities among other diseases and injuries. I think this alert alone should open and broaden ways to adequately manage and prevent mental illnesses from prevailing amongst the youth group.
Mental health vs mental disorder
There is a huge distinction between mental health and mental disorder. The World Health Organization describes mental health as a state of wellbeing whereby you realize your abilities, can cope well with the normal stress of life, can work productively, and can make contributions to your community.
A mental disorder, on the other hand, is a medical condition whereby a person’s moods, thinking, and behaviors are affected (disordered) due to various reasons. It could be hereditary, or as a result of prolonged periods of suffering, trauma, stress, a chemical imbalance in the brain, or a traumatic brain injury amongst other factors.
When someone has a mental disorder, he or she is not able to cope or work effectively or productively like a person without the disorder would.
Common mental illnesses/disorders
It is important that, as individuals, we know and understand our overall health so that when something is off, it is easier to recognize it and be able to deal with it before it flares up. The following are some of the common mental illnesses/ disorders:
Depression and Anxiety disorders
Mood disorders such as Bipolar
Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
Post-traumatic stress disorder
What are the signs and symptoms of mental illness?
Unlike physical illnesses or disabilities, it is not simple to notice when someone has a mental illness. This is one of the reasons why most people don’t even talk about it, open up, or admit that they are suffering mentally.
The signs and symptoms of mental illnesses/disorders vary with the diagnosis. And although a disorder may be the same, different people may show different signs and symptoms. It is also important to know that there are special diagnostic guidelines and several procedures, psychoanalysis tests, etc, to diagnose mental disorders.
Some of the noticeable signs of mental disorders (especially depression and anxiety) include: severe and prolonged distress, having low self-confidence, getting tired easily, being tearful, nervous/anxious or irritable, loss of appetite, or gradually, over time, loss of interest in things once enjoyed.
If you know someone closer to you suffering or showing symptoms (not just seasonal), you may want to talk to them or refer them to a specialist where they can talk to a professional. People who have a mental illness also find it difficult to focus and at most, suicidal.
How to help someone who is suffering from a mental illness?
You can talk to them and assure them that you care about them. It must not be easy especially if it is a close relative or a loved one to open to you. In the latter cases, you can refer or encourage them to talk to someone they trust. Sometimes listening from a place of empathy (not sympathy) may be helpful. Listen attentively without judgment. Remember not to draw conclusions or second guess them. If their condition is in a serious or threatening state help them find help as soon as possible.
I would also advise that you don’t interrupt them while speaking. Or try to tell them that everyone gets sad sometimes. While talking to them or listening to them refrain from comparing situations or saying I have been there unless they ask you for your opinion or advice.
What information is available
The information about mental health as a medical condition that needs medical intervention is written, discussed, and debated in almost every media platform – from scientific journals, books to social media. And for that reason, it is important to forage on verified information from trusted sources to avoid confusion.
In the case of a crisis, the best place to go for help is your doctor. If not accessible, you can speak to someone you trust for help.
When we are knowledgeable and aware of our surroundings and the cloud of every bit of uncertainty, we somehow do better as a human race. I say this, given the high rise of mental illness being diagnosed and more treatments/therapy being offered worldwide.
Over the years, with more resources, research, and diagnostic protocols in place, the cases of mental health have, without a doubt, increased drastically. For this, you do not have to consult the scientific papers to prove. There is surfacing evidence for this phenomenon everywhere, especially in areas dominated by young individuals, irrespective of gender, and ethnicity.
I think we are capable of doing better if we stand together and help each other fight this global epidemic. Spread awareness, love, and kindness, always.