What is Mental Illness?
Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour associated with significant distress and impaired functioning. Examples of specific mental illnesses include:
- Mood disorders: major depression and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Problem gambling
- Substance dependency
What are the Risk Factors for Mental Illness?
Mental illness arises from a complex interaction of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors. Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, education levels, income levels and cultures. Specific risk factors include:
- family history of mental illness
- substance abuse
- chronic diseases
- family, workplace, life event stresses
What Can I Do to Help Myself if I Feel Depressed?
Depression is a serious but treatable illness. See your doctor and get help for recovery. It's always a good idea to get a physical exam in order to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms. You should tell your doctor that you think it might be depression, so that he or she can ask you the right questions and come to the most accurate diagnosis. Therapy is also very important. Many studies have shown that the most effective way to fight depression includes a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and self-care. Self-education is an important part of self-care. One of the features of depression is that it distorts thinking. Everyone who has depression should learn as much as they can about the disorder. This achieves three things:
- It will allow you to understand the disorder better.
- It will underline the fact that these are very real medical disorders and will help to fight prejudice and stigma.
- It will give you knowledge and tools that you can use to help yourself.
What are the Warning Signs of Suicide?
Talking about suicide ➡ Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again..." and "I'd be better off dead." Seeking out lethal means ➡ Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt. Preoccupation with death ➡ Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death. No hope for the future ➡ Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change. Self-loathing, self-hatred ➡ Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me"). Getting affairs in order ➡ Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members. Saying goodbye ➡ Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again. Withdrawing from others ➡ Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone. Self-destructive behaviour ➡ Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish." Sudden sense of calm ➡ A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.
How Can I Help Someone Who is Suicidal?
- Take all threats or attempts seriously
- Be aware and learn warning signs of suicide
- Be direct and ask if the person is thinking of suicide. If the answer is yes, ask if the person has a plan and what the time line is.
- Be non-judgmental and empathic
- Do not minimize the feelings expressed by the person
- Do not be sworn to secrecy …seek out the support of appropriate professionals
- Ask if there is anything you can do
- Draw on resources in the person’s network
- Do not use clichés or try to debate with the person
- In an acute crisis take the person to an emergency room or walk in clinic or call a mobile crisis service if one is available
- Do not leave them alone until help is provided
- Remove any obvious means e.g. firearms, drugs or sharp objects) from the immediate vicinity