All about the mind

Mental Health Week

This week is Mental Health Week. I thought it would be a good idea to blog a bit about mental health awareness and the importance of therapy or medication.

  • Did you know that one in five Australians will experience a mental health disorder at least once in their lifetime? [Source]
  • Did you know that in Australia, the greatest number of people suffering from a mental illness are between the ages of 18 and 24? And that 14 percent of children and adolescents between 4 and 17 years suffer from mental health problems? [Source]
  • Did you know that one in four American adults suffer from a mental health disorder each year? [Source]
  • Did you know that over a 100 million people suffer from mental illnesses in China? And almost 70 percent of them do not receive appropriate treatment? [Source]
  • Did you know that according to the World Health Organisation, one in every 4 people all over the world develops at least one mental health disorder in their lifetime? [Source]
  • And finally, according to the WHO, suicide claims a life every 30 seconds. [Source]

These statistics give you something to think about.

Mental health disorders include depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders among others. They affect a person’s education or work, their social relationships and their general functioning.

Till date, there are common myths and misconceptions that continue to exist about mental health problems which only makes the stigma associated with it worse.

  • You are weak if you complain about mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety: No. You are not. A mental health problem like depression can be very debilitating. In it’s worst form, depression can affect all aspects of a person’s life to the point they isolate themselves from their friends, family and work, sleep all day or hardly sleep and just see no future at all. It is not something a person can just “get over” and trivialising it is not going to make it go away. The ‘tough love’ act does not ‘cure’ depression either. You might be the strongest person on the planet but given the right genes and the right environmental triggers, you can suffer from a mental health disorder at some point in your life. Mental illnesses do not discriminate between people based on age, gender, race, wealth, or physical health. Remember that.   
  • Once you are diagnosed with a mental health disorder, there is no hope for you in life: Imagine believing this when you are suffering from mental health problems. How do you reckon it will make you feel? A whole lot worse, I bet. There is research out there to show that you can manage problems like anxiety or depression with therapy or medication and psychotic illnesses through medication. It is not the end of the world. You can go back to work, have a relationship, have children, a family, and well, basically, have a life. You may not necessarily ‘cure’ the generalised anxiety or the depression but you learn to manage it a whole lot better and notice a reduction in the symptoms given the right treatment. 
  • People who self-harm are just engaging in attention-seeking behaviour: This is not true in most of the cases. People who self-harm tend to cover their cuts either by cutting on parts of the body such as their thighs or legs or else using accessories such as jewellery or wristbands or wearing long sleeves. Individuals tend to self-harm because they know of no other way to cope with their emotions and the emotional pain. The physical pain gives them something else to focus on. So if you do know someone who self-harms, don’t just brush them off as a person seeking attention from others but rather refer them to seek therapy. There is something else going on. Something else they are hiding deep down. 
  • People with a mental illness are violent and must be avoided: Research shows that people who are receiving treatment for a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general population and instead are more likely to harm themselves. [Source] It is a sad misconception and hence more often than not, you will notice that people avoid those with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. 
  • Mental illness is contagious: No it is not. Just by hanging out with someone with schizophrenia or anorexia, you are not going to ‘catch’ it like the common cold. Spending time with someone who is extremely depressed can be mentally exhausting but you are not going to become depressed just because you are spending time with them.  
  • Only medication can help someone with mental health disorders: Wrong again. For disorders such as depression, social anxiety, specific phobias, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress, there is evidence to show that cognitive-behavioural therapeutic interventions are beneficial. This is considered to be the gold-standard in therapy and so far has been proven to be most efficacious through randomised-controlled studies. Additionally, acceptance and commitment therapy is gaining ground as is interpersonal psychotherapy. None of these involve sitting on the couch and telling the therapist everything from the time you were a baby to your current state. Don’t believe the movies. Medication can certainly help with some of the above disorders and definitely for disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but along with therapy, it is even more beneficial.
  • People who commit suicide are cowards or stupid: Sadly, I believed the coward bit about a decade or so ago. I don’t anymore. People who commit suicide or attempted it do so because they see no other choice. Living for them, is not a choice. They see no point in living. Everything is hopeless. And based on that, they make the rash decision of ending it all. The hundreds of children that seem to be committing suicide in India following poor exam results are most likely in this boat. Where they see a  bad Year 10 or Year 12 mark as signifying the end of their lives literally. And deal with it the only way they know…killing themselves.

On a final note, people with mental illness are not a lost cause. If you know someone who is suffering but is not seeking help, do encourage them to do so. If you are suffering but hiding it from everyone, do seek professional help. It is not something to be ashamed of. It isn’t a sin to admit you are struggling.  It isn’t weak if you need to seek help in order to cope with your own life.

See the statistics at the start of the post.

You are not alone. Definitely not.

Until next time,

Cheers!!! 

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No Comments

  • Reply
    starry eyed
    October 12, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Mental illness is very common, but never talked about. It’s okay to pretend everything is ok, but never to try to sort it out. I don’t like jokes anymore about shrinks and NIMHANS (in Bangalore)…it’s not about ‘madness’, it’s about there being saner ways to live a good life with the help of a good professional’s treatment.

  • Reply
    Sourav C. Pandey
    October 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    PB, that was well researched and analyzed. I must say you did a lot of homework before coming up with this post!

    Yes, people suffering with such illnesses need help, and before anyone can help them out; it should be they themselves who need to help themselves!

    I am re-tweeting this, it needs to reach out to few people!

  • Reply
    celestialrays
    October 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Would love to read more of such posts PB… Mental illness is discussed even lesser than AIDS! There has to be more awareness

  • Reply
    PNA
    October 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Don’t scare us PB… The stats, once in a lifetime!!

    On a serious note, the problem lies in the fact that we are unfamiliar with the indicators of mental illness. For instance, we know we have fever if our body temperature rises above 98.4 F, or a cold when we sneeze non stop…it is not the case with mental health, therefore, the carelessness and no-initiative in early stages of depression or eating disorders. and add to it the stigma case closed… but society is changing and people are open enough to ask for help… good sign, but long way to go

    Happy birthday to Over cups of coffee and hugs to you PB

  • Reply
    Titaxy
    October 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Very informative post.

  • Reply
    Bushbelles
    October 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks for your post, I am passionate about mental health and helping myself and all those around me become aware and well.

  • Reply
    Makk
    October 13, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Everything is hopeless for people committing suicides and still you want to say that they are not coward.

    Is not escapism a typical act out of cowardice?

    P.S.: My argument doesn’t imply that according to me they are coward.

  • Reply
    Bikramjit
    October 13, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Sad sad .. you seem to have researched the topic..

    I am sure its not just australia happens at other places too

    adn the point on suicide AGREED when there is nothing left , and all seems to loose one takes that step.. YEs I know
    but its also true that when one door closes another opens we just have to look up and see it

    Bikram’s

  • Reply
    Swaram
    October 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Thanks for sharing PB. Informative and helpful!

  • Reply
    S.R.Ayyangar
    October 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

    A very educative post. There is a thin line between depression & the mental health. One should not ignore bout of depression to stress or mood.

  • Reply
    SG
    October 13, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Very informative and useful information. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Smitha
    October 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    That was very very informative and interesting. Mental illness is something we also seem to have a huge mental block about. A lot of people would die rather than admit that they or their loved ones needs medical help.

    Posts like this will definitely help dispel the myths that surround mental illnesses.

  • Reply
    Arpana
    October 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    In India too we need to work on these issues,as growing loneliness and competitiveness fueling all these symptoms in society.

  • Reply
    Nalini Hebbar
    October 15, 2010 at 4:38 am

    It’s better to get treated(better for both the person and his caretakers) than to suffer silently as is the case in India….great post!

  • Reply
    A Restless Mind With A Sensitive Heart!
    October 19, 2010 at 7:37 am

    THis is a wonderful awareness post, on the lesser acknowledged state of mind. Well written.

    Even I believed it was some kind of cowardice to commit suicide. Am rethinking about my views after reading ur post.

    RESTLESS

  • Reply
    How do we know
    October 20, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    yes PB, this was a much needed post. i routinely advise ppl around to get help when its obvious they need a counselor. But there are 2 things to it – 1. Non availability of counselors. There are psychatrists, but not all cases need that. A lot more cases need pure counseling and its just not available. 2. The entire social stigma around “i m not mad.” Guess both these things need to be addressed.

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler™
    October 24, 2010 at 9:44 am

    @ Starry: I agree…especially in India, it’s something that’s swept under the rug. There is nil awareness about it. I can still handle jokes about psychologists (you need a laugh in the profession) but it shouldn’t become a barrier for people seeking treatment. NIMHANS is pretty well-known and I would say Bangalore is probably ahead of Bombay for sure in terms of mental health

    @ Sourav: Thanks Sourav! To be honest, all I had to research were the statistics (Hail Google!) as I am well aware of the myths that exist and put forth my own counter arguments…people do need to admit they have a mental health problem. Unfortunately for some, due to the stigma associated with it by society, they are less likely to admit it and get help!

    @ CelestialRays: Thanks Divz! And yes, you’re right…mental health is hardly ever discussed which is strange when depression is one of the highest killers…even more than obesity and other physical health problems!

    @ PNA: Didn’t mean to scare you Pinny! 🙂 You’re right in that people are not educated about mental illnesses resulting in being unable to identify the initial signs. The reason for this is in the stigma of course. It would be great to have some subjects at school about this to create awareness. You don’t have to be able to diagnose it yourself but at least if people can recognise signs such as low mood, loss of appetite or eating way too much, loss of sleep, lack of finding pleasure in activities (all this to mean depression), then at least people could go and see a professional. Thanks for the birthday wishes! =)

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler™
    October 24, 2010 at 9:44 am

    @ Titaxy: Thanks T! Glad you found it informative…

    @ Bushbelles: Welcome! It’s great to see others passionate about mental health as I am =) Keep up the good work and do keep visiting!

    @ Makk: Who said it’s escapism? It’s not seeing any other choice apart from taking one’s own life…

    @ Bikram: It’s definitely a world-wide problem. In fact, I looked up stats for India and you know what? There was none available. I was able to find WHO stats and Australian stats and American and even Chinese stats on this topic but none for India. Again, the stigma is such that it probably not even possible to get the stats!

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler™
    October 24, 2010 at 9:47 am

    @ Swaram: You are welcome Swaram! Glad you found it helpful…

    @ S. R. Ayyangar: Welcome! I don’t think I’ve seen you here before! You’re right…depression is a mental health issue and not something one can “get over” quickly as though it’s just a stressful situation…

    @ SG: Welcome! Glad you found it useful…

    @ Smitha: Thanks Smitha…glad you found it interesting and helpful! You’re right in that the stigma for mental health problems is so deep it’s hard to get people to admit to it. It’s a shame and hopefully society will change…

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler™
    October 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

    @ Arpana: Welcome! In India, people also need to work on the issue of stigma surrounding mental health. Society needs to talk about it. And you’re right…with society becoming more and more individualistic, it’s important that this is spoken about!!

    @ Nalini: I totally agree with you!! And thanks… =)

    @ Restless: Thanks Restless! And I’m glad you are re-thinking your views…more awareness about mental health does that. Hopefully, more and more people will rethink their views about mental health problems in general…

    @ How do we know: Welcome to this space! You’re right…unfortunately, there aren’t many psychologists or counsellors in India and not everyone needs a psychiatrist as their first step is to medicate and medication is not always necessary. And the stigma…hopefully, in the years to come, that will change. But it might take a while. Unless the stigma around mental health changes, people are unlikely to want to seek help and admit they have a problem…

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler™
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    @ Swaram: You are welcome Swaram! Glad you found it helpful…

    @ S. R. Ayyangar: Welcome! I don’t think I’ve seen you here before! You’re right…depression is a mental health issue and not something one can “get over” quickly as though it’s just a stressful situation…

    @ SG: Welcome! Glad you found it useful…

    @ Smitha: Thanks Smitha…glad you found it interesting and helpful! You’re right in that the stigma for mental health problems is so deep it’s hard to get people to admit to it. It’s a shame and hopefully society will change…

  • Reply
    How do we know
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    yes PB, this was a much needed post. i routinely advise ppl around to get help when its obvious they need a counselor. But there are 2 things to it – 1. Non availability of counselors. There are psychatrists, but not all cases need that. A lot more cases need pure counseling and its just not available. 2. The entire social stigma around “i m not mad.” Guess both these things need to be addressed.

  • Reply
    Arpana
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    In India too we need to work on these issues,as growing loneliness and competitiveness fueling all these symptoms in society.

  • Reply
    Bushbelles
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for your post, I am passionate about mental health and helping myself and all those around me become aware and well.

  • Reply
    Sourav C. Pandey
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    PB, that was well researched and analyzed. I must say you did a lot of homework before coming up with this post!

    Yes, people suffering with such illnesses need help, and before anyone can help them out; it should be they themselves who need to help themselves!

    I am re-tweeting this, it needs to reach out to few people!

  • Reply
    celestialrays
    December 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Would love to read more of such posts PB… Mental illness is discussed even lesser than AIDS! There has to be more awareness

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