‘I think I will go mad!’, ‘I don’t know how long I’ll be able to handle this stress.’ - These one-liners have become so common place that even kids studying in primary school have started using them when their homework load gets a little heavy!
But can we actually comprehend what it is to feel mentally ill? Do we acknowledge that it is possible that we ourselves are falling into that most dreaded pit of mental illness or mental instability. Believe it or not, almost 40% of human beings at one time or the other will be in a situation very close to a serious mental health problem; may be depression anxiety, panic, PTSD, and the likes. Strangely not each of these people realize what they are going through because most often it coincides with a major life event (eg.: loss of loved one). Some do not admit to themselves that they might need help. The unfortunate truth is many of these later develop very serious mental disorders that could have been prevented with the right intervention at the right time.
Our Attitude regarding Mental Illnesses
When it happens to a Loved-one
At first we would be scared, frightened to even acknowledge that they have a problem. When is crosses the limit we are scared how to approach the subject and about what will become of them , their future.
Most of us don’t know how to handle that situation. We hope that our loved one agrees to visit a psychiatrist or we force them to. We blame ourselves for not knowing. We think we could have done something earlier to prevent it. But never ever do we think that he/she is an abomination or contagious nor do we stay away from them. We do our best to help them heal.
When it happens to a stranger of a distant acquaintance
‘I think he/she is mentally unstable!’, ‘There is something wrong with her head’ – we say these thing with a crinkled nose and the look of disgust that would suggest we just found out that someone cheated on their spouse. We become oblivious to the fact that someone facing a mental problem is just as vulnerable as we are and that most of the reasons that contributed to their unfortunate mental state was beyond their control. We try staying away from them, all the while including their trepidation as a source of our mirth during tea parties, gossip sessions or cocktail evenings.
How indifferent and hypocritical we are! When we see mental illness in an up-close and personal manner we know it should not be a taboo; it should be talked about; and help should be made available. But we have a different rule for others.
It is exactly this – the fear of being judged, talked about in contempt behind their backs and being made socially isolated that forces people to trample their feelings and doubts about their mental state and push it deep down inside themselves. It only aggravates their condition and finally results in the most unexpected form of illness.
When it happens to ourselves:
There might have been times when we ourselves realized that we are infact going through a mental problem. But we feel ashamed, we defer treatment – in fact we somehow convince ourselves ‘to get over it’ and behave normal. We believe that if we come out and accept that we have a problem and approach a professional then it would mean that we are weak. But the truth is that it takes a lot of courage to accept the fact that we are facing a mental problem. Those who think that being brave is bottling everything inside , could not be more wrong. By doing so they not only risk developing a severe mental illness but also risk becoming a cause for the pain that their friends and family would have to endure in the future.
What can we do to improve the state of Mental health?
Be the change that you wish to see in the world – M.K.Gandhi
We blame our society that places such a taboo on mental illness. We are the society. We need to change for the society to change. It needs to start with us.
So the next time someone brings up a gossip about someone mentally unstable or ging through a mental illness, turn the conversation into how you could help him/her or how you should deal if such a situation arose in your family.
Encourage someone feeling severly depressed to meet a psychologist or counsellor.
If you think you might be in such situation – then be brave, pick up the phone and talk to a counsellor; if not a counsellor speak to your close confidant, or a loved one.
How to identify the beginning of a mental illness?
The following tips have been sourced from http://www.psychiatry.org/mental-health/more-topics/warning-signs-of-mental-illness
One or two of the below mentioned symptoms can’t predict a mental illness. But a person experiencing several together that are causing serious problems in his or her ability to study, work, or relate to others should be seen by a mental health professional.
- Social withdrawal and loss of interest in others.
- Unusual drop in productivity, especially at school or work, such as quitting sports, failing in school, or difficulty performing familiar tasks.
- Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain.
- Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations.
- Lack of initiative or desire to participate in any activity; apathy.
- A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality.
- Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult.
- Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling.
- Uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior.
- Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or deterioration in personal hygiene.
- Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings.”
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