probably gone through an emotional time in your life that has negatively
affected you and left you in a state of shambles. But instead of asking for help to cope better
with your situation, you were afraid of seeking help because of what people
might think or say. Health experts say the stigma of mental illness is rife and
that’s the reason people tend to be in denial or don’t want to confront the
emotions they might be going through. Psychiatrist, Dr Linessa Moodley, and
clinical psychologist, Nompumelelo Kubheka, share expert advice that discredits
the stigma and myths on mental illness.
Health Organisation defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and
social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or illness. Mental
illness and disorder can be understood as an illness that adversely affects
emotions, cognition, behaviour or speech and results in deterioration in the
level of functioning at work, in your personal life, family roles and
responsibilities. Dr Linessa says,
“Countless people are living in stressful conditions and it comes as no surprise
that mental disorders have become common. The consequences of untreated mental
disorders may be severe, potentially life- threatening and adversely affect
multiple domains of life.” There are multiple causes of mental illness and no
one reason can be pointed out as a single cause. “Mental illness is similar as
a combination of genetic predisposition (or family history), early life trauma
and adversity, stressors, medical illnesses and substances, among other
factors. They all influence each other and the likelihood of developing mental
illness,” says Dr Linessa.
¦ Persistent changes to your mood
¦ Feeling that you are not coping with your day-today activities
¦ Having unusual experiences such as seeing or hearing things
¦ Having trouble with your memory
¦ Having thoughts of harming yourself
¦ Having difficulty with substance abuse.
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
to the health and medical news website WebMD, these are some of the most common
mental health issues:
¦ Anxiety disorders: People with anxiety disorders respond to certain
objects or situations with fear and dread, as well as physical signs of anxiety
or panic, such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating.
¦ Mood disorders: These disorders
involve persistent feelings of sadness or periods of feeling overly happy or
fluctuations from extreme happiness to extreme sadness.
¦ Psychotic disorders: These
involve distorted awareness and thinking. One of the most common symptoms of
psychotic disorders is hallucinations.
¦ Eating disorders: These involve
extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviours involving weight and food.
¦ Impulse control and addiction disorders: People with impulse control
disorders are unable to resist urges or impulses to perform acts that could be
harmful to themselves or others.
¦ Personality disorders: People with personality disorders have extreme
and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and or
cause problems at work, school or relationships.
¦ Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD have constant
thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines.
¦ Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):
PTSD is a condition that can develop following a traumatic and or
terrifying event, such as sexual or physical assault or the unexpected death of
a loved one.
be the reason you are suffering in silence when you have a mental illness. “Many
people feel that seeing a psychiatrist means that something is very wrong and
that a referral is an admission of severe illness. Few people see the role of
psychiatrists as someone who helps ordinary people deal with extraordinary
situations. This unfortunately means that many people who need psychiatric help
don’t receive it and are left to struggle on their own unnecessarily,” says Dr
Linessa. Nompumelelo says the lack of knowledge on mental illness derails the
treatment process and leads to people suffering in silence. “There is a lot of
poor judgement, insight and ignorance when it comes to mental illness,
especially among black people. Some call it the white people’s illness and in
black cultures, a man is expected to be strong and not show emotion. This is
not right.” Nompumelelo adds that people
may be quick to blame witchcraft when someone has a mental illness. “For
instance, someone who is from a rural area may be quick to use bewitchment as a
point of reference when someone has a mental illness because of the general
perception that exists in rural areas,” she says. “Mentally ill patients are
called crazy, mad and dangerous and this doesn’t encourage them to get treated
because some of them don't want to be seen as different and abnormal.”
says it may be difficult for people to get treatment because mental illness is
not physical like a wound. “A wound is
easily treatable as it can be seen. It can also be hard for someone who is
mentally ill to seek help and explain how they feel. They might prefer
medication and refuse to talk about their problems.” She adds that there are
different types of mental illnesses, some are chronic while others are brief. There
are also different types of mental illnesses and treatment so it is always
important to consult a medical practitioner to get the correct diagnosis and
treatment. Dr Linessa says, “If you are worried about someone you love or care
for, start by talking to them and asking how you could be of help to them. More
harm may be done by avoiding the situation than by simply talking about the
symptoms. Encourage them to see a professional.”
¦ South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) 011 234 4837
¦ Akeso Behavioural Healthcare Group Psychiatric Intervention Unit 0861
¦ Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline 0800 70 80 90