Understanding Mental Health

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE – If you can’t do good, at least do no harm. This basic principle becomes doubly important when it comes to mental health.

Today, we have a much better understanding that many people live with serious health issues— and it could be anyone. But not everyone is equipped to deal with mental health issues. That said, when you find out that somebody close is affected then the least that you can do‐if you can’t offer direct help‐is to refrain from acting all-knowing while using the wrong labels. In cases like this, we really, really don’t know what they are going through.

Some people are at greater risk than others, so, throwing out random popular jargon and incorrect labels can deepen the emotional scars caused by mental illness. A person who is angry is not always psychotic. A person who is unhappy or a little bit down is not the same as someone experiencing clinical depression. The word schizophrenia should not be used to means “a person that has two minds.” Much in the same vein, even “bipolar” is not equivalent a split personality and should not be used to describe someone with two different sides. Why? Because using inaccurate terms can reinforce stereotypes and deepen long-held stigmas.

In the already depressive world of mental health problems, using the right language can count for a lot. At the very least, it opens the door to understanding.

Anxiety is a type of fear that is usually associated with the perception of a threat or something about to go wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now. It can affect all of us every now and then. Feelings of anxiety can be caused by many things and vary according to what you’re worried about and how you act when you feel apprehensive. Anxiety can have a strong effect on the sufferer because it’s triggered by one of our natural survival responses.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by swings in a person’s mood from high to low, euphoric to depressed. Bipolar people in a high phase can get themselves into difficulties they would normally avoid, like spending money they don’t have or giving away all possessions. On the flip side, during a low phase, bipolar people can feel utter hopelessness, despair and extreme lethargy, become full of self-blame and self-doubt and have difficulty in concentrating.

Clinical depression is a very common mental disorder that causes sufferers to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration. Mind you, depression is different from simply feeling down or sad.

OCD is a common form of anxiety disorder involving distressing, repetitive thoughts. And this is why OCD is particularly difficult to make sense of or to explain to other people. Obsessions are distressing or frightening repetitive thoughts, which come into your mind automatically. Compulsions are actions people feel they must repeat to feel less anxious or stop their obsessive thoughts.

A person having a panic attack experiences a sudden and intense sensation of abject fear. They may feel they have lost control and feel desperate to get out of the situation that has triggered their anxiety.

Schizophrenia is a diagnosis given to some people who have severely disordered beliefs and experiences. It’s used to describe a wide range of symptoms. During an episode of schizophrenia, a person may see or hear things that are not there, lose touch with reality and hold irrational or unfounded beliefs.

Stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable. At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from any given situation or life event. Stress is also a response to a threat in a situation, whereas anxiety is a reaction to the stress.

In closing, if you’re worried about someone you care about, you should know that help is available. You, or they, are not alone and sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery. Last but not least, you have to remember that people are more than their illness. It doesn’t define them.