December 20, 2016

How To Deal With And Talk About Mental Illness

Mental illness is a potentially serious health problem. Still, a large majority of us ignore it. A patient who develops cancer or heart disease seeks treatment immediately. They don’t wait until the condition progresses from stage I to stage IV. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case with mental problems. They are rarely talked about. People who suffer from a mental illness never discuss it with others; neither does their family. Mental illness can be thought of something many people are ashamed of. But if we delve into statistics, it is not hard to see that mental illness is a fairly common condition. In fact, one-fifth of Americans suffer from a mental problem of some kind. Such prevalence calls for the eradication of the stigma surrounding it.

How Mental Illness Progresses

Like cancer, mental illness has various stages.

Stage 1

Only mild signs and symptoms are present at this stage. The patient may demonstrate some signs of a mental illness, but they will still be able to perform reasonably well at work, school, or home. Having said that, their friends and family might still suspect that something is not right with them.

Stage 2

The disease has advanced at this stage. In fact, it even begins to interfere with the normal activities of the person. At this stage, it is obvious to everyone that something is wrong. The symptoms are now stronger and new symptoms may also appear. Performance at school or work also suffers.

Stage 3

Symptoms get worse with recurring episodes. The patient will have a tough time performing their roles and life activities. They will experience helplessness and hopelessness.

Stage 4

At stage 4, the symptoms are so severe that they jeopardize the patient’s life. The extreme and persistent nature of symptoms will also lead to other health problems. The patient may lose their job and home. They could be hospitalized or even imprisoned. In worst case scenarios, an untreated mental illness can result in the premature death of the patient.

Early identification is crucial to the effective treatment of mental illnesses.  However, the social stigma surrounding the illness prevents many patients and their families from seeking timely treatment. Also in many cases, the patients don’t realize that their problems are caused by a mental condition. The fact that many countries don’t even have a mental health policy also aggravates the situation.

It is up to us to understand the signs and symptoms of the disease and take effective action. It is true that mental illnesses require long-term treatment, but patients will be able to recover fully and reclaim their lives.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, or mood disorders, you should consider taking a confidential screening. Discuss the screening results with a trusted relative, friend, or doctor and plan a course of remedial action. Keep in mind that mental health problems are more common than you think. Also, they are treatable. Several treatment options are available from therapy to medication. Finding the right treatment might take some time, but they provide truly amazing results.

Talking About Mental Health Problems

Discrimination and stigma are the biggest obstacles that prevent people from engaging in meaningful conversations about mental health problems. This stigma makes it difficult for people to even talk about their own mental problems. The key is ending the stigma, but it is not easy. People still believe that having a mental illness is a shame. The government, media, and health professionals should all work together to end this stigma.

Avoiding correlations between mental problems and criminality is equally important. People often assume that mental patients are prone to committing crimes. This correlation also goes against a constructive dialogue about mental illness. Just because someone with a bipolar disease went on a shooting spree at a campus, it does not mean that every bipolar patient is dangerous.

At the same time, we must not forget to find the correlation between suicide and mental illness. Studies have known the vast majority of people who committed suicide also had a mental problem.

Avoid Words With Negative Connotations

Parents and teachers should discourage their children from using words like crazy, loonie, mental, and schizo. These stigmatizing words are commonly used at the playground and get embedded in children’s minds from a very young age. And as they grow up, these words color their judgment and encourage them to stay away from mental patients.

Changing our attitude towards mental health problems is the first step towards managing this debilitating condition. If we could change our thinking, it will help others open up towards their conditions.

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