Doctor: Good morning Mr. C, how is the going? How have you been feeling since we last saw you?
Mr. C: I could be better
Doctor: What’s going on? How are you feeling today?
Mr. C: Doc, I feel tired all the time, I am not sleeping well and sometimes sleep during the day, I have a headache that won’t go, and I am not eating well. I think my blood pressure is very high and feel like I am about to die
Doctor: How long have you been having the symptoms?
Mr. C: For about two months now. I have been seen severally in different facilities for the same, very many tests done and nothing found, but I still feel the same way. I am getting frustrated and I just need it to stop
Doctor: Do you have any stressing factors?
Mr. C: Is this life without its stresses Doc?
Doctor: I see, tell me about it. We shall also go through a Patient’s Health Questionnaire together…….
I am sure we all feel this way some times and some stress is important in our lives. When we are not able to cope with the daily stresses of life then we may not be mentally healthy. WHO defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect our mood, thinking and behaviour. They may also impair our cognition, perceptions of the world, physical health and bodily functioning. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, stress, eating disorders and addictive behaviours. They are very common and many people have had one or know someone who has.
Mental illness can make us miserable and can cause problems in our daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy).
Signs and symptoms
They may include;
· low self-esteem, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty in making decisions,
· Being irritable or ‘touchy’, excessive fearfulness or worry, being paranoid, racing thoughts,
· Difficulty concentrating and suicidal thinking.
Sometimes, symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as back pain, stiff neck, constipation, diarrhoea, acidity, recurrent infections, headaches, weight gain or loss, high blood pressure and persistent fatigue.
Causes and Risk factors
The exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known. It is thought to be a combination of several factors including our genes, biology, and life experiences are definitely involved.
Many mental illnesses run in families, but that doesn’t mean we will have one if a family member did. Some conditions involve circuits in our brain that are used in thinking, mood, and behaviour. For instance, we may have too much, or not enough, the activity of certain brain chemicals called “neurotransmitters” within those circuits. Brain injuries are also linked to some mental conditions.
Some mental illnesses may be triggered or worsened by psychological trauma that happened in our childhood or teenage years, including severe emotional, physical or sexual abuse. A major loss, such as the death of a parent, early in life and neglect. Other major sources of stress, such as a death or divorce, problems in family relationships, job loss, school, and substance abuse, can trigger or aggravate some mental disorders in some people. But not everyone who goes through those things develops a mental illness.
It’s normal to have some grief, anger, and other emotions when we have a major setback in life. Mental illness is different from that.
Suicide and Mental Illness
The World Health Organization estimates that 20 Kenyans attempt suicide every single day. Globally, over 800 000 people die due to suicide every year and suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15–29-year-olds. There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide. 75% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. Mental disorders and harmful use of alcohol contribute to many suicides around the world.
People who attempt suicide are usually ambivalent; that is, part of them wants to die and another part of them wants to live. They are internally divided. In an attempt to mitigate suicide, the best healthcare practitioners try to appeal to the healthy “part” of a person’s mind. Half the time we are left with an intractable enigma that cannot ever be completely unravelled in this life.
How can we help?
“ A lot of people call suicide a coward’s way out, but they don’t realize just how bad you are until they have lost someone close or they are in that position
Not all suicides can be prevented, but a large proportion can. Truth is, most people with mental illness are neglected, looked down upon, rejected and stigmatized against. Think about it, how differently do we treat people suffering from cancer or chronic illness from people suffering from mental illness? Stigmatization starts with us!
There’s no sure way to prevent mental illness. However, if you or a loved one has a mental illness, taking steps to control stress, to increase your resilience and to boost low self-esteem may help keep symptoms under control. It’s also very important to: Recognize the symptoms: lookout for the above symptoms including physical ones that may suggest one could be stressed or depressed, Pay attention to warning signs: Take note if someone makes suicidal comments, all suicide threats and attempts should be taken seriously, Seek medical attention and encourage a loved one to seek help, Take good care of yourself: Sufficient sleep, healthy eating and regular physical activity are important. Try to maintain a regular schedule.
Remember, even the strongest pot does crack at some point. Seek help before you crack, at any of our 21 Out-patient centres countrywide. With early diagnosis and treatment, many people fully recover from mental illness or can manage their symptoms. Although some people become disabled because of chronic or severe mental illness, many others are able to live full and productive lives. The key is to get help as soon as you notice the symptoms then you and the Healthcare provider will continue from there…