More than 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. These deaths are caused by mental disorders and harmful use of alcohol. Other reports like that of the world health organization (WHO) indicate that 20% of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems. And according to the Kim foundation, 57.7 million people in the US suffer from a mental health disorder. But what is mental health?
What is mental health?
The World health organization defines mental health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease. http://www.who.int/topics/mental_health/en/
Medline Plus describes mental health as illnesses which yield serious disorders which can affect one's thinking, mood, and behavior. https://medlineplus.gov/mentalhealth.html
Whereas the English Oxford dictionary names mental health as a person's condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mental_health
From the above definitions, one can conclude that mental health is not caused by some sort of bacteria or virus spreading around diseases, but among other factors, it is as a result of environmental, neurological, cultural, developmental and socio-economic life experiences.
Mental health disorders
Below are the major mental health disorders;
People with these types of disorders suffer anxiety and respond to certain objects or situations with fear or terror.
Anxiety disorders include:
• Compulsive Disorder
• Panic Disorder
• Post-Traumatic Stress
These types of disorders are common in youth. Victims have rebellious behavior, are inattentive especially in school; and it gets worse when they start to indulge in drug abuse or criminal activities.
Eating disorders involve extreme attitudes and emotions and behaviors involving weight loss/gain. The most common eating disorders include:
• Anorexia Nervosa: is when one has an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may diet or exercise too much, or use other methods to lose weight.
• Binge: Eating is when a person feels a loss of control over food and ends up eating large amounts of food. This behavior is known to occur when one goes off dieting, but other times it occurs without a reason. Patients who are at the extreme can eat 5,000 - 15,000 calories during one intake of food.
• Bulimia: Is when a person overeats but in the end forces themselves to vomit the food out. It is a common illness in adolescents and young women mostly because they are usually trying to cut weight but have failed to control their large food intakes.
These are disorders that involve a lot of mood swings. They are sometimes called Affective disorders. Patients with this type of disorder have symptoms of feeling sad, losing interest in life and having highs and lows between happiness and sadness.
The most common mood disorders are:
• Bipolar Disorder
• Seasonal Affective Disorder
• Suicidal behavior
In this category of mental disorders, suicidal behavior is a very important disorder to look out for. This is because Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds. Also, 112 Americans die by suicide each day.
Always observe the following symptoms in suicidal disorders;
• Increase of drugs and alcohol use
• Behaving recklessly
• Feeling isolated
• Thoughts of seeking revenge
• Excessive mood swings
• Feeling hopeless
• Acting anxious
• Sleeping too much
Causes of Mental disorders
Although it's rare, mental illness can be genetically adopted. What makes genetics a rare source is because for mental illness to occur genetically there have to be many interactions of multiple genes? Sometimes, one may become mentally ill not directly from genetics but from the family influence of abuse or traumatic events which may trigger the illness simply from susceptibility to it.
Brain defects, injuries or certain infections can also cause mental illness. In children, according to WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-causes-mental-illness a condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA) is linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, a mental disorder found in children. Also, failure to produce enough oxygen to the brain can be an aspect in the advance of certain conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.
But there are certain types of mental illnesses which are self-brought. Eating disorders like Anorexia nervosa are such a type of mental illness. The victim brings it upon themselves by not appreciating their body weights which end them up overly dieting.
Mental health in Men
Mental health America, http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/infographic-mental-health-men indicates that 6 million American men suffer from depression per year.
But the symptoms in men are slightly different than those in women.
Although physically women appear to have more phobias, men have more panic disorders than women. In America, 3020,000 have a panic disorder
In men, a family history of depression is most likely to pass on depression to its male members than to the female members.
Patrick McCathern, retired Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, told the national institute of mental that,
“It starts slowly and the only person you're talking to is yourself. You're lost. Its dark, the pain is twenty-four seven... you just want it to end... I'd drink and... I tried to numb my head... but you have to deal with it. It doesn't just go away."
Other causes of mental health in men are the loss of a loved one, difficult correlations or any stressful circumstances.
Mental health in women and children
Considering that an estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts like civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children, in women, disorders like stress and anxiety are higher than in men.
According to the World health organization (WHO), Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.
Women may experience headaches or digestive problems without a clear cause
In some cases, women begin seeing or hearing things that are not there. They get high mood swings, changes in eating and sleeping habits and high weight gain or weight loss.
In children, once a mental disorder develops, it becomes more difficult to treat it than it is in adults.
The National institutes of mental health point out that 50% of all mental illness that might last longer in life begin by age 14.
You will notice these symptoms and more in children with mental illness;
• Fearful behavior
• Thoughts of death
• Loss of appetite and sleep
• Being upset and tearfulness
• Self-destructive behavior such as head-banging.
Mental health in youth
While most youths can maintain a healthy life, 1 in 4 youths get mental disorders. These are usually as a result of the teenagers navigating certain challenging stages of life.
Even with these challenges, mental health distress is episodic in most youths and can be treated. Below are the warning signs to look for in youths who may be having the illness.
• Poor grades in school despite trying very hard
• Addictive use of alcohol or drugs
• Sexual acting out
• Difficulties in concentrating
• Recurrent physical complaints
• Mood swings
Tests and Diagnosis
The first mental health test you should take is a self-test. Examine yourself or those around you to see whether you have any of the above symptoms.
Once you do, immediately seek a doctor. In the hospital the doctor will also try to rule out what kind of mental illness you may have by physically observing your symptoms, asking you about your thoughts or behavior patterns, or they may ask you to fill up a feedback form to help answer these questions.
Some of the questions doctors ask are about your family background, how long you've been experiencing symptoms and the impact they are having on your life.
They might also take a lab test to check your thyroid function or to screen for alcohol and drugs.
In most cases, your Doctor can test you but for complex problems like extreme suicidal thoughts, they might refer you to a psychiatrist who will observe you more closely, sometimes over a period of time or after a number of visits.
After these tests are done, your Doctor will diagnose you based on their findings and will immediately rule out what sort of treatment to best suit your condition. But to determine an accurate diagnosis, you have to be very truthful to your Doctor in answering questions because questions determine your diagnosis more than anything. For example, if you tell your Doctor that you’ve been overeating and after forcing yourself to vomit, they might base on this to diagnose you with Bulimia.
Management of mental disorders
A number of therapies can be used to treat a mental disorder. Most disorders receive similar treatments while others have special therapies. The age of the victim may also matter in determining the type of treatment to be used.
Here are some of the medications Doctors prescribe;
Sleeping pills or minor tranquilizers: These pills are often used to treat anxiety. They calm a patient down and arouse sleep.
Mood stabilizers: They are frequently used in patients with depression. They also help to treat depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.
Antidepressants: These treat eating disorders, anxiety, and depression
Antipsychotics: Reduce symptoms of psychosis; they control mania and bipolar disorder.
Children/teenagers may receive all the above treatments but in most cases, Doctors advise parents to treat children/teenagers using talk therapies and other non medicinal methods rather than medicines.
Also known as expressive therapies, these are psychotherapy activities a patient is asked to do, it could be to listen to music, dance or to use drama and poetry to express themselves.
This type of treatment is commonly used to treat patients with anxiety, depression, and stress. During meditation, patients are asked to reflect on life. This helps to bring structural changes in the brain. There are many other types of meditation that can be used. Walking meditation, yoga or self-inquiry meditation are some of them.
Mindful meditation is one of the best types of treatment for substance use disorders
Spiritual councilors are often religious leaders and most of them offer help for free.
Based on spirituality principles, a spiritual counselor will offer comfort and talk to a patient about their issues, offering them examples of people who have gone through the same and how they overcame. They help to develop a solution based on spirituality and will often encourage the patient to pray and trust in a supreme God for healing.
If you have never suffered from mental illness, you should avoid it by not allowing situations that drive you into the condition. Steps such as to control stress, to fight low self-esteem and to boost your resilience will keep mental illness away.
A research by mental health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/state-mental-health-america says that that the number of mentally ill youths is increasing more than in any other age group and that 80% of mentally ill youth do not receive care. The disease in youth increased from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1% in 2014. However, Youth.Gov http://youth.gov/youth-topics/youth-mental-health/warning-signs instructs that mental health in youth can be prevented more than in any age group even without seeking a Doctor. They advise that parents should often use talking therapies, be encouraging and try as much to understand the needs of their teenagers.
In general, these tips will help prevent mental illness;
• Get routine medical care
• Sufficient sleep
• Healthy eating
• Regular physical activity
• Stay alert on symptoms
• Seeking peer and professional supports services
• Family and social support network
• Keep from alcohol or drug use
• Keep a positive attitude
Mental health conditions can get serious if neglected. Keeping a journal is one way to keeping track of your desires, emotions and personal life. Since finding the right diagnosis and treatment for this illness requires truthfulness and accuracy, a journal can help you express your emotions which will help your Doctor identify what triggers your symptoms.
Mental illness can recover but it should be seriously noted that it is a journey. Victims must stay committed to a treatment plan and effectively implement it. If there is no willingness to heal of the diseases, the conditions can stay for as long as possible as, even longer than 20years or forever.
Patients must also note that even though the conditions have healed, living a lifestyle that returns the symptoms is most likely to return the disease.