Mental illness is something that affects people world wide. According to a study conducted by Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in 2017 as reported in their Global Burden of Disease study; 10% of the world suffers with some sort of mental illness; that equals 792 million people worldwide. Let that sink in.
It should go without saying that for all of the people experiencing some form of mental illness; it does not affect every person the same way; therefore the treatment of mental illness should be based on the individual.
Harmful Myths in Many Cultures
In my opinion, mental illness has been a very taboo subject throughout the world. In my 35 years on this planet, the discussion surrounding mental health wasn’t a very open one until the last 10 years. Growing up I remember people being called “touched”, “crazy”, or the person who “wasn’t quite right in the head”. It’s no wonder with classifications like these that those who are battling mental health illness might be less forthcoming with their need for assistance.
The health care system doesn’t necessarily add to dispelling these harmful myths when treatment centers are seen as cold, austere, clinical environments devoid of compassion and warmth. While movies may embellish these facilities and show them as filthy, dark, full of unkempt drooling people muttering to themselves; having been a patient in a facility before, it’s not such a far fetched stereotype.
Mental Illness Looks Different for Everyone
One of the most damning things about the way society views mental illness is that we’re all grouped into one category. If you hear the word mental illness, more often than not you are not considering the vast umbrella that is mental illness.
According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is a handbook that medical professionals utilize to diagnose mental and behavioral disorders; there are close to 300 mental illnesses in existence.
With that being said, there’s no one way for these disorders to manifest in people. Symptoms can be from mild to severe in any one of these disorders. This means how people respond to said disorders will not be the same! There is something so frustrating about someone trying to tell me how I should deal with my disorders because they “know someone who has [insert here] and they drink chamomile tea to fix it.
Treatment Looks Different for Everyone
Depending on what type of mental illness you have and how it impacts your life will determine what type of treatment you may need. You may need medication, therapy, hospitalization; or a combination of some or all of these methods.
The method of treatment should never be decided by random people on the internet with little to no knowledge of your medical history. Before making any decision on method of treatment, discussion with your mental health professional is important. And quite honestly, your mental health professionals should be in contact with your regular medical healthcare team to ensure that any medications or other treatments don’t conflict with any other treatments or conditions that you mayhave.
Asking Questions & Research Go a Long Way
Often times the misinformation could easily be corrected if people took the effort to learn. If you know someone dealing with mental illness, ask questions. Listen to understand and not to respond. It is okay for you not to have the answer. The best thing that you could do is to refer them to resources that can actually help them. The only way to know what resources are available is by researching a few, especially those local to you.
Helping someone with mental illness does not have to be a one man savior project. It can be as simple as listening without judgement, not diminishing or minimizing the person’s feelings, and offering to support their journey to finding proper, professional care.
While it would be wonderful if all mental illness could be fixed with the snap of a finger; no mere man on this earth possesses that power. What we do have the power to do is be supportive in the way that a friend or family member needs. An individuals needs obviously varies based on circumstances. Find out from that friend or family member how they envision you helping them and see if there’s practical ways for you to do so.
Unfortunately, some individuals struggling with mental illness may experience lapse in judgement due to their illness. In those circumstances it is so important for you to reach out to a medical professional in their community and find out the best ways you might be able to help especially if the individual’s safety is at risk.
However, sometimes there are situations when there is absolutely nothing you can do. Some situations are beyond the scopes of our capabilities. It is important that you recognize your limitations in situations such as these and do your best to perhaps be supportive to the surrounding family members of a mentally ill person.
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