Like any other medical problem, mental illnesses are health related conditions. They involve changesin emotion, thinking and behavior. Furthermore, they are associated with distress and /or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Many persons who have been diagnosed with a mentalillness continue to function well in their daily lives, as mental illness is treatable. It can affect anyone, atany time and pays no respect to who you are. In other words, anyone, regardless of age, gender,race/ethnicity, religion,sexual orientation, location, income, background, or other aspects of one’scultural identity can be affected as statistics over the years have shown us.
For many persons living with mental illnesses, treatment may be for a lengthy period of time or may last a lifetime. However, with the appropriate treatment for one’s condition, support and recommended lifestyle changes, many persons typically function well. Support is imperative in the journey with mentalillness, and its presence has been shown to help persons to be less likely to have frequent relapses. It mustbe noted however, that the intensity and the frequency of relapses does not discriminate either. An awareness ofthis should therefore help us to lend our full support, and be caring, considerate and non-judgmental towardspersons with mental illness. It also reminds us that the next victim can be you, I or even a familymember we love dearly.
Another reminder ofhow mental illness does not discriminate is that none of us have control over thefamily we are born into as a strong family history of mental illness also increases one’s chances ofbecoming mentally ill. Moreover, the use/excessive use of harmful substances such as alcohol, cocaine,cannabis etc., is strongly discouraged as this too predisposes one to becoming mentally ill. Also, bereminded that some persons regardless of their social class, experience difficulty coping with life’schallenges, making them more susceptible to mental health problems.
Early treatment seeks to ensure that an individual can recover and return to stable functioning in arelatively shorter period as opposed to delaying seeking treatment which can lengthen the time that it takes to returning to stability. Such a delay can be due to denial. The stigma towardsmental illness is in part responsible for the delay in treatment along with various other factors. This isnoted when persons become fearful of how they will be looked at and treated in society and in socialsettings. In other instances, though there may be acceptance, the issue of pride arises as some may notwant others to know about their illness so they avoid going for treatment. These are some of themajor challenges hindering persons from accessing treatment, hence the need to stress that mental health is a shared responsibility. The morepersons that are on board to ensure that our friends, neighbors and loved ones seek treatment to return tostable functioning, the better it will be for any society. It is therefore important that we continue to beinformed and further enlighten others that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is amedical condition just like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease etc. Therefore, let’s embrace its realityin a positive light as treatments are available to help people successfully manage mental healthconditions. Mental illness does not discriminate because anyone can be affected, so take care of yourmental health today and please encourage others to do the same.
Mrs Anya Abbott