For the most part, it is one of those topics that we tend to shy away from. It almost seems as if we do not talk about it, it does not exist. Ironically, nearly every day we see manifestations of mental illness, many of which result in fatalities or serious injuries. These can be voluntary or involuntary, self-inflicted or injury inflicted upon others.
In Trinidad and Tobago, our approach to dealing with mental illness has been rather lax. With one main institution, St. Ann’s Hospital providing in and out patient care, our response tends to be reactive as opposed to being proactive. Moreover, as Trinis, we love to laugh at “serious thing”. Quite often we jokingly make comments like that person is “mad”, “mental” or “mentally ill”, but do we really understand what is mental illness?
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness runs deeper than “just being insane”. According to the American Psychiatric Association Mental Illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving:
- Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior
- Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities
Signs and Symptoms
Persons suffering from mental illnesses usually display certain behavioural patterns and signs that sometimes go undetected or are simply ignored. Only in hindsight we realize that these were red flags that we failed to pay attention to. These are cries for help, which can possibly save a life or help someone find the road to recovery.
A Physician Review by Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H. has identified the following as signs & symptoms of mental illness:
- Drop in functioning
- Problems thinking
- Increased sensitivity
- Feeling disconnected
- Illogical thinking
- Unusual behavior
- Sleep or appetite changes
- Mood changes
Types of Mental Illnesses
Mental illness can manifest itself in many different forms; however more common diagnoses includes:
- Anxiety disorders– generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias
- Mood disorders – depression, bipolar disorder, and cyclothymic disorder
- Psychotic disorders – schizophrenia, hallucinations, delusions
- Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder
- Impulse control and addiction disorders- Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing)
- Personality disorders– antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Managing Mental Illness
Effectively managing your prognosis will assist with recovery thus improving one’s mental health and overall well-being. Here’s how:
- Acceptance – Acknowledging that there is a problem and a need for intervention
- Psychological Assessment – Get assessed by a psychiatrist or mental health expert
- Psychological therapy and medication – Seek treatment to limit the severity of the symptoms
- Support System – Speak with someone like a trained professional, family member or even a friend
- Coping Mechanisms – Learn skills to deal with symptoms of the illness
Mental illness is manageable once diagnosed correctly and treated diligently. It does not have to be the end for you or your loved one. If you need to speak to someone about mental illess feel free to reach out to Jubilee Community Foundation.