Dealing with Mental Illness

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By Angela Mutiso

A Mental Health Disorder is characterized by a Persistently Depressed Mood

Nearly one in five (19%) U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness. One in 24 (4.1%) has a serious mental illness. One in 12 (8.5%) has a diagnosable substance use disorder- American Psychiatric Association. 

Have you ever spoken to someone you’ve always known to be normal and come away feeling that the person is somewhat unstable? Lillian, an Administrative Assistant, once sat next to a very thoughtful middle aged man in a city bus. Years later, she recollected the incident.  She remembered that the man hadn’t been comfortable and was quietly talking to himself. Lillian eyed him suspiciously, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. His behavior was unusual. Soon afterwards, his gloomy face broke into a smile, but his eyes were deadly serious. He looked to her like someone who had at some point, led a good life. Now he had the look of deprivation.  

He kept shaking his head and, occasionally clasping his head in his hands. Then he stood up abruptly, he seemed unsure about where he was or where he might be going. Realizing he was getting unneeded attention, he sat down again next to a now very uneasy but curious Lillian. He tried to act like all was well, but clearly it wasn’t. He had a lingering and unsettling wry smile that made him look like someone who was in pain. The Bus Conductor gave him one look and never came back for his fare.

When he couldn’t hold it anymore, he started talking again, this time, audibly; “I am a casual laborer with 10 children” he whined, addressing no one in particular. “I cannot feed them. I cannot school them. I do not even have enough to eat myself” he said, gesticulating aggressively. His world seemed to have fallen apart, and now he was falling apart too. He was well spoken, and looked intelligent, but clearly, something had gone terribly wrong with him and his life.

Indulging this man, she later came to know as Lomedo, was exhausting. However, Lillian who should have been a counsellor, was always ready to comfort. When she prodded him to tell her what was amiss, he explained that throughout his life, he had devoted his time to hard work and he had kept working and providing and had done his best to make a home and a life for his family, but it had all boiled down to nothing.  He had lost his job as an Electrical Engineer a year ago and was unable to pay school fees, and his rent or feed his family after using up all his savings, which had been substantial.  His face was so stricken, he looked several years older than his actual age as Lillian later found out. 

She asked him to see Counsellor, to be positive, to always pray, and above all, to share his dilemma with his wife, older children, and close friends, in case he hadn’t.  She also told him that there were many people in need of his services, if only he could seek them out. Finally, she urged him not to allow the light of faith and hope to die out. Lodemo seemed well-read but at this point, was totally overwhelmed by his limiting circumstances. Thankfully, he calmed down after some talking to. He finally mustered the courage to ask Lillian for financial help to feed his family that day.

 Since she was between positions and was not scheduled for much until later in the day, she spent more time talking to him and guiding him.  In the end, she bought a few items for him to take to the children. His conversation with her had reduced his stress considerably. He thanked her and seemed to be giving his predicament a fresh perspective.  “You need help” Lillian told him as they parted.  He promised to toil harder, this time with deeper faith and a more structured focus. Lodemo then muttered something to the effect that he would see a counsellor to guide him out of his predicament.

Unfortunately this situation (mental illness) is becoming distressingly common. Lodemo had tried hard to act like nothing was wrong, but procrastination was no longer an option. He was at this point developing some kind of mental health issues that needed immediate attention.

Mental disorder is also known as mental illness. Psychoanalysts advise that you should not be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Discovering all you can about mental health is a big step in the right direction. Many people have found it hard to reconcile the fact that someone who has been so emotionally and financially stable can suddenly become unbalanced…but it is possible and happens every day. 

What is mental illness? 

According to American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses can be associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. They say that mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience, hope and self-esteem. Mental health is also key to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributing to community or society. It is a component of overall well-being and can influence and be influenced by physical health.

They note that many people who have a mental illness do not want to talk about it, adding that; “mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of! It is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes. And mental health conditions are treatable.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) known to be America’s largest grassroots mental health organization, dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness note that; trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness. 

It further observes that each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include (some) of the following: Excessive worrying or fear; feeling excessively sad or low; confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning; extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria; prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger; avoiding friends and social activities.

 They also have difficulties understanding or relating to other people, you notice changes in sleeping habits they develop fatigue and low energy, there are changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite, as well as changes in sex drive and difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality) among others. They also include the inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality, overuse of substances, multiple physical ailments without obvious causes, being suicidal, inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress and an intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance.

NAMI says that mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. This is because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include; changes in school performance; excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school; hyperactive behavior; frequent nightmares, frequent disobedience or aggression and frequent temper tantrums.

Anything that destabilizes you, can lead to irrational behavior. When you read the list below, you will realize that most people have suffered from some form of mental disorder at some stage in their lives, possibly even now. You may not be aware of it, but it is real.

Mayo clinic and others describe different types of mental disorders/illness thus;

  • A mental health disorder is characterized by a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. 
  • Anxiety disorder is depicted by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.
  • Bipolar disorder is about episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
  • Dementia refers to a group of thinking and social symptoms that interferes with daily functioning.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. 
  • Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly. 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder relates to excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – a disorder characterized by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. 

Main source – Mayo Clinic and a few others.

Please note that this is for informational purposes only.

It is gratifying to note that there is a day set aside for mental illness.  The theme of Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 is “Look Around, Look Within,” according to Mental Health America. Mental health professionals’ aim is to emphasize the ways that our surroundings — like safe and stable housing, healthy home lives, neighborhoods and cities, and nature — affect our mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month began in the United States in 1949 and was started by the Mental Health America organization – Wikipedia.  The month is observed with media, local events, and film screenings.

How do you take care of yourself in this state?

Self-care is necessary at all times, but more so when you have this condition. It is the act of regularly taking care of oneself. Self-care activities include exercise, meditation, or hobbies. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by putting an emphasis on a balanced diet, frequent exercise, and enough sleep to support your physical and mental well-being. Build and maintain solid relationships with friends and family, since they can offer emotional support and company. Seek social support. Manage stress: To deal with life’s obstacles, use stress-reduction strategies like deep breathing, mindfulness, or counselling.  To reduce pressure and anxiety, try setting realistic goals and remember that no one is perfect. Limit your substance use: bear in mind that drinking too much alcohol or using drugs might have a detrimental effect on your mental health. 

Finally, consult a professional if you encounter persistent mental health problems.

Health Tips

The Guava is a much underrated fruit. Yet both the fruit and the leaves have several health benefits. 

  • Guava helps boost your immunity.
  • May reduce the risk of developing Cancer.
  • Helps to manage blood sugar levels.
  • Guavas help in keeping your heart healthy.
  • Helps during constipation.
  • Helps in better eyesight.
  • Guava is an anti-stress agent.
  • Guava helps women during pregnancy. Source; healthline

(It is always advisable to visit a doctor).

The writer is the Editorial Consultant of the Accountant Journal.

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