Mental health is something that we are all focusing on a lot more in recent years, and it is becoming more accepted that mental health is just as important as physical health.
Talking about mental health and mental illness has become much less taboo over the last few years, and this can only be a good thing. More awareness means more understanding, more research, and more treatments.
The World Health Organisation estimates that one in five people across the world will encounter some kind of mental health disorder in their lifetime, and currently in the United States, one in four people are living with mental illness. So, if you aren’t currently living with mental health issues, someone you know will be, even if they haven’t told you.
What Is A Mental Health Disorder?
There are a wide range of conditions that fall under the umbrella term of mental health disorder. There are the more commonly discussed ones such as clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder, to eating disorders to borderline personality disorder.
A mental health disorder affects your mood, your thoughts and your behaviours. Many people experience some degree of mental health problems during their life, and these can be transient or managed fairly easily.
If your symptoms become pretty much constant or impair your ability to lead a normal life, then you would be considered to have a mental illness.
What Are The Treatments?
If you are experiencing any symptoms of mental health problems, including, but not limited to, feeling down more than you feel happy, and an inability to enjoy the things you once did, constantly worrying about everything and not being able to ‘turn your mind off’, extreme mood swings, hallucinations or paranoia, or suicidal thoughts, then it is time to consult a doctor.
A doctor will go through your symptoms with you and discuss the appropriate treatments, usually medication or therapy, or a combination of the two.
Sometimes, people who have been living with a mental health disorder, either diagnosed or undiagnosed will suffer what is called a ‘crisis’. This is where a patient becomes either a risk to their own, or to someone else’s safety, and they may need more intensive inpatient mental health treatment.
Myths About Mental Health Treatments
There are many rumours and outdated pieces of information floating around that can make people worried about how they will be treated if they admit to having mental health problems. This means that many people are living with mental health disorders and not getting any help, and this is a travesty.
Having good mental health is extremely important for your overall health, and a doctor will want to help you.You do not have to wait until you become very unwell to seek help, even if you are only having symptoms sometimes, go and talk to your GP before the symptoms get worse and it becomes more intensive to treat.
Mental health disorders rarely go away on their own. Unsympathetic people may tell you to ‘just snap out of it’ or ‘stop feeling sorry for yourself’, but this is a very harmful thing to say. It is invalidating your experience, and assuming that you are not really unwell. Don’t listen to them – go and speak to your doctor.
Not every person who seeks help is put onto medication, sometimes therapy is the answer. However, medication is not something to be scared of. Medication can really help, and it doesn’t mean that you will be on it forever, or that you will be weak. Medication is just as needed to help your brain, as pain relief is needed to help if you break a leg.
Medication is not always addictive. There are so many newer medications now that don’t have addictive components, and a medication does not necessarily turn you into someone who looks half asleep all the time, so please don’t be scared to talk to your doctor about medication.
Only a small percentage of people with mental health disorders need to be hospitalised, so if you go to the doctors to chat about mental health, you are not suddenly going to be locked into a hospital against your will. This may work in movies, but that is not real life. You can also keep working in most cases, your employer doesn’t necessarily need to know unless it will affect your working life.
Recovery, Can It Be Done?
Yes. In short, for the large majority of people recovery is possible, and you can lead a normal life.
You may have to redefine your personal meaning of recovery, recovery with a mental illness does not normally mean going back to living the exact same way you were before your diagnosis, but that’s ok. Life is full of change and adaptation, and if those changes make your life better, then there is nothing to be scared of.
You may find that you are living with, and managing your mental illness for the rest of your life, which sounds a bit daunting, but you won’t be alone, many people live with life long illnesses, both physical and mental, and there will be support out there for you.
Recovery, and how you perceive recovery is personal to you. It can be good to set some goals of what you need to achieve to feel you have recovered, and work towards them.
Recovery is not always a straight path, sometimes you will go backwards and feel like you aren’t getting better, but any progress is still progress. Maybe consider keeping a journal so you can look at how far you’ve come.
Can I Lead A Normal Life?
Absolutely yes. As with recovery, you may need to redefine what normal means to you. Normal is an overused term, and what people think of as normal is different for everyone.
However, in the generic use of the term, yes you can lead a normal life. In most cases you can continue to work, live with your loved ones, have a family, socialise and do all the things that you did before your diagnosis.
Lastly, remember that you are a unique individual, and you are worthy of getting help and feeling better. Remember to be kind to yourself.