Is there any close person to you who has been diagnosed with a mental illness? Have you ever wondered what is mental illness? What causes it and what are the symptoms? And how does a patient really feel?
Her eyes were closed tightly, but drops of tears escaped between her long black lashes. These tears carried her memories of hardship that she had overcome.
“Sarah, are you ok?” asked her psychologist.
“Don’t worry doctor, these are tears of joy; not like the ones that you have witnessed before,” she replied with a smile while trying to dry the running tears down her cheeks. “As you know, this is our last session, but you are always welcome back,” said the doctor. She thanked the doctor for his support and left the office. As she started to head back home; her mind was still occupied with the memories of the mental illness that she was diagnosed with: depression.
Patients with mental illnesses are looked at differently in many societies. If a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, it would be taboo to talk about it outside the borders of their home. Many think that this negative perception was adopted from the old times when mental illness was looked at by the society as madness, and not a health condition. But even today, according to a survey conducted in the UK, people would describe mentally ill patients as dangerous individuals. (Davey, 2013). This clearly suggests that there is no chance for the patient to be at school, work or in any public area without being discriminated against. All of these misconceptions add to the loneliness of the patient who is already lost in his circle of fear. Also, the pressure of the stigma forces the family and the patient to hide the illness instead of treating it.
However, society is not aware of the fact that mental illness is a health condition like any other health condition, which includes disabilities. But this condition is unique because it causes a disruption in the mind and psyche of the person rather than being a visible disease on the body. Mental health illness primarily refers to a disorder or a change in the emotions, behavior, and thoughts of an individual. This condition affects the person’s daily routine, productivity, mood and social relationships. There are different types of mental illness conditions some are more known than others. Some of these conditions include Schizophrenia, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Depression. (Information about mental illness and the brain, 2007)
Many individuals wonder what causes mental illness, however; there are no any clear cut answers to this question, but there are some contributing factors. Two factors that many experts in the field talk about include the biological and environmental factors. The biological factors refer to genetics and the history of the family with mental illnesses. It also refers to changes in the chemicals and the structure of the brain that occur within a diagnosed patient. The environmental factors include the setting or the condition that the individual is exposed to such as chronic stress, war, culture and traumatic life events. Sometimes, these two factors can be interlinked, and they both can exist simultaneously. However, once the signs and symptoms of mental illness are noticed individuals should seek the proper support. It is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. (Causes of Mental Illness, 2017)
Every mental illness has its unique signs and symptoms. In the case of depression, “People with depression experience, for at least two weeks, persistent sadness and a loss of interest in a once enjoyable activity. They also experience guilt, hopelessness, and loss of energy, lack of concentration and distrusted sleep and appetite. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.” (WHO Global Health Days, 2017)
Angelo, from the Philippines, was diagnosed with depression. He describes his experience with depression as “going through a process” and during this process, ones’ family support and understanding are crucial. He explains how the most painful experience that comes with depression is the experience of self-persecution. Because of Angelo’s lack of awareness about his mental illness, Angelo thought it was a punishment by life for his past mistakes.
With time the illness developed, and Angelo became dysfunctional, which made everything a struggle to him. “Going to work was a struggle, speaking was a struggle, sleeping was a struggle and thinking was a very big struggle,” His family noticed the changes that he was going through and knew that he needed help from a professional. Angelo feared the stigma associated with mental illness that is set by the society. However, this did not stop Angelo’s mother from convincing him to seek therapy. She attended every session with him, and she provided him with emotional support whenever needed. This support that Angelo received from his family was one of the main contributors to his healing process. (WHO Global Health Days, 2017)
As reflected in Angelo’s story, family support can be the keystone to the healing process of all mental illness conditions. This support can be provided in many forms, including taking the initiative of learning about the illness of the patient to understand what is the patient going through. Also, avoiding any behavior, attitude or stigma that would discourage the patient from acknowledging the illness or following the treatment plan. In some cases, families would question the existence of the patient’s illness and would ask him or her “to toughen up” which may distress the patient. Further, families can also provide emotional support by letting the patient know that he or she is not alone in this vague journey. Other encouraged gestures that would highlight family support include booking therapy appointments and being with the patient during the appointments.
To conclude, mental illness is not something to hide from but to embrace as suggested by Angelo, “Embracing depression completely can be a life changing experience, it is liberating.” The patient and the family must acknowledge the illness, and they ought to seek help from professionals because “A person who goes through depression and attains healing is a better person of the society”.
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- Davey, G. C. (2013, August 20). Mental Health & Stigma. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201308/mental-health-stigma
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