Many believe that a mental disorder is not a true medical illness like a cardiovascular or respiratory disease. But, the fact is totally different. A mental illness is as common and as vital as any other physical illness. Out of sight is out of mind, and this is true especially in the case of mental health. In case of cold, fever or pain, we SEE the symptoms – immediate, acute signs of illness – and we seek a doctor for the necessary treatment. That doesn’t apply to mental health, and hence the lowly treatment it receives! However, in today’s stress-ridden lives, mental health needs even greater care and attention. And, it’s not only loss of sanity and serious conditions like Schizophrenia that count as mental illness. Common issues like irritability, insomnia, when chronic, may fall under this area.
Mental fitness is difficult to quantify. Therefore, it is equally difficult to identify a mental disorder. So, the question is how to define mental health? As per the definition given by the World Health Organisation (WHO ) mental health is, “A complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” A number of reasons may be causative factors for disturbing sanity and mental health. If not addressed in time, they can lead to some serious consequences.
- Genes– If someone from your family is suffering from a mental disease, the probability of you developing the similar illness is higher. You may be carrying some genetic abnormalities, and thus you are susceptible to conditions which can trigger off a mental illness of the same type.
- Injury– Brain is a vital organ. If it gets critically damaged due to some injury, you may suffer from a mental disorder.
- Infection– There are some bacterial infections which can disturb the normal state of mind and cause illness.
- Substance Abuse– Alcohol and drug addiction can lead to a mental illness.
- Other– Poor nutrition, sudden negative changes in lifestyle, trauma, stress, exposure to toxins, scarce supply of oxygen to the brain etc. can also be held responsible for damaging your mental health.
Mental disorders can be classified into four major categories, namely – 1) organic brain disorders, 2) mood and anxiety disorder, 3) personality disorder and 4) psychotic disease. Like the treatments available for other body parts, various treatments are also available for diseases related to mental health.
Depending upon the nature of the illness, a general practitioner, a psychologist or a psychiatrist can treat the person. While some of these conditions can be treated by counselling and therapy, some may need medication along with counselling, or in severe cases, even surgery. Various treatments like cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, tranquillizers etc. are available for dealing with mental illnesses.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Most of us are not aware about the reasons, types and treatments available for mental illnesses. Misconceptions about a subject as serious and important as mental health can mislead the whole society and give birth to many myths. Therefore, it’s vital to know the facts, be sensitive towards mental health issues and spread awareness.