By: Sidi Andrew.
The first time I heard the phrase ‘mental health problem’, I was in SS2 and was listening to a musical programme on the radio and after it ended, a health programme came on and the presenter gave the day’s topic as Mental Health and mentioned he has a mental health expert and professional in the studio to talk about the topic and how it affects individuals and society as a whole. The first thought that came to my mind upon hearing this was, “This program is not for people like me. I’m too young to have this kind of problem” and therefore I promptly switched off the radio and did something else.
The basic reason I came to this wrong conclusion then was that I barely understood what mental health meant and I thought any problem associated with it can only affect adults and elderly people and not teenagers. Unfortunately, quite a lot of teenagers and young adults erroneously have this kind of thoughts too but the simple truth is that no person is too young to have mental health problems though its effects may vary in varying demographics but altogether, these effects affect every such individual adversely in all aspects of their daily living and the lives of those that surround them in general.
In this article, you will understand what mental health is, the factors that contribute to mental health problems, common early warning signs/effects, some mental health disorders, and some proven tips and guides that work in its treatment.
What is Mental Health?
Simply put, it encompasses the psychological, emotional, and social well being of an individual. Basically about how we think, behave and feel, how we handle stress and make choices, and our inter-personal relationship with others. It is important at every stage of life from childhood up through to adulthood. Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders. It entails looking after your happiness, mental stability, and actively avoiding conditions or situations that might bring about its collapse. Looking after it well can preserve your ability to enjoy life, it will involve finding and reaching a balance between responsibilities and other day-to-day life activities. Mental health problems affect the thoughts, mood, and actions of an individual. Its problems are common and help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many have recovered completely from it to lead normal lives again.
Factors that Contribute to Mental Health Problems
Various factors and conditions may cause disruptions of the mental health of an individual which, if not promptly managed, can lead to mental health problems. They include the following:
- BIOLOGICAL FACTORS: Research has shown that certain genes and gene variants in genetic family history can increase the likelihood of mental health conditions thereby putting a person at higher risk of having mental health-related problems. However, people without related genes or no family history of mental illness can still have mental health problems and vice versa.
- LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCES: Some individuals experience traumatic events such as accidents, abuse in various forms, violence, or loss of a loved one or some other thing of great value to them while others can experience some physical health problems such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS e.t.c. They may contribute to the collapse of such a person’s mental health thereby leading to serious mental health problems.
- SOCIO-ECONOMIC PRESSURE: Limited financial capability or belonging to a persecuted ethnic minority or a marginalized ethnic community or religious body can increase the risk of mental health problems as various researches have shown in recent years. Some of these socio-economic factors could also be education, occupation, housing, and living quality and conditions, age, and gender.
Some Common Mental Health Problems (Disorders)
- Anxiety Disorders: People with this condition have severe anxiety and fear which is caused by certain situations or objects. They try to avoid being exposed to such situations that trigger their anxiety.
- Panic Disorders: Characterized by regular panic attacks/overwhelming fear of imminent danger or disasters
- Phobias: This could be in the form of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, etc. They are deeply personal and what might seem normal or usual to one person may be a severe problem for another.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(OCD): Characterized by recurrent and persistent thoughts and a powerful urge to perform some acts repeatedly.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD): Mainly occurs after a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic or deeply stressful event such as war, violence, accidents, or abuse. Unnecessary paranoia is always experienced.
- Mood Disorders: Significant changes in mood generally involving from high to very low or low to very high. An individual with major depression experiences a constant low mood and loses interest in activities that they once enjoyed. Additionally, they have prolonged episodes of sadness or extreme sadness while a bipolar person experiences unusual changes in energy levels, mood, and ability to continue with daily life. Characterized by constant mood swings.
- Schizophrenia Disorders: Individuals experience disturbance of thought and language, distortions of reality, and withdrawal from social contact.
Early Indicators/Effects of Mental Health Problems
Physical tests are not available to reliably confirm whether a person has a mental health illness but experiencing one or more of the following feelings or exhibiting some of these behaviors can be early indicators of a possible mental health disorder;
- Avoiding activities one would normally enjoy or perform.
- Withdrawal from and shutting out of family, friends, and colleagues.
- Lacking the enthusiasm to do anything.
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
- Exhibiting or displaying complete hopelessness.
- Using drugs, smoking, drinking, or using other mood-altering substances more than usual.
- Persistent thoughts of physical harm to yourself or others.
- Inability to complete or perform daily tasks such as cooking a meal, personal hygiene or going to work.
- Experiencing delusions or feeling confused at all times.
- Having severe mood swings.
- Recurring memories or thoughts you can’t seem to get out of your head.
- Displaying unusual negative emotions or aggressive behaviors.
- Hearing unexplained voices or having unexplained pains and aches.
Treatment of mental health illnesses is highly individualistic. What may work for someone might not work for another person and there are various methods these treatments can be managed; though some methods are more successful and efficient if they are used in combination with other treatments. All in all, the affected individual needs to work closely with mental health professionals who can help them identify their needs and problems and provide them with suitable and appropriate treatments. These treatments can include:
- Psychotherapy: This will involve psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and some other relevant physicians who will carry out the treatment using various procedures such as hypnosis or group therapy.
- Medication: Some individuals may be put on prescribed medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anxiolytic drugs. These drugs are not cures but they help in improving symptoms and help a person resume and participate in normal activities and routine social interactions while working on their mental health.
- Self-Help: This involves the individual making some personal changes in their lifestyle to bring about wellness. These changes could include a reduction in smoking, drugs, or alcohol intake. Eating a nutritious and balanced diet. Reducing office workloads or delegating on some duties as the case may be and generally slowing down on work-related efforts, sleeping healthily, and exercising regularly. Making an effort to resolve issues with personal relationships that may have deteriorated which might be a likely cause of mental illness.
People with general anxiety or depressive disorders can practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, light reading, calisthenics or develop some other coping skills/techniques and inculcate them into their daily living. Furthermore, they can create or join a support group or network; it could involve family and friends or some other self-help groups that will aid in their recovery.
A healthy and positive mental health is important for every individual and society. Take note of the people around you and ask how they are doing. Endeavor to get in touch with family, friends or colleagues that you haven’t seen in a while and avoid situations that can put your mental health in jeopardy if you can but if you cannot, all hope is not lost, you can seek and get help to lead a normal and fulfilling life.
I encourage you to share this post and it would be a pleasure to know your thoughts by commenting on what you think or you may wish to share an experience or knowledge on mental health.