That’s the goal, correct? To have a healthy, sound, and active mind, in an equally healthy, sound, and active body. While popular culture always seems to focus on external beauty and the way a person looks, we tend to almost ‘shy away’ from matters concerning the mind and mental health. The reason? We’re probably afraid of what people might think. Ironic, isn’t it?
But, apart from the irony in all of this, what do we really know enough about mental health? For starters, the World Health Organization defines mental health as:
"... a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities to cope with the normal stresses of life, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." They also go on to say that mental health "is not just the absence of mental disorder."
That’s great, but what is a ‘mental disorder’ exactly, and is in any way linked to suicide? Glad you asked. Listed below are a few of the common types of mental disorders if this has any link to suicide as well as a brief description of each. If you feel as though you may be suffering from any of these conditions or know of someone, we’d like you to know that you’re not alone, and medical help is but a phone call away.
A few, common mental disorders
The most common types of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and schizophrenia disorders; below we explain each in turn:
Anxiety disorders are the most common when it comes to mental illness. The person has an almost crippling fear or anxiety, which is linked to certain objects or situations. Most people with an anxiety disorder often avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety.
Examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Panic disorder - the person experiences sudden paralyzing feelings of dread, horror, or a sense of imminent disaster.
- Phobias - these may include simple phobias (a disproportionate fear of objects), social phobias (fear of going out, social settings), and agoraphobia (dread of situations where getting away or escaping may be difficult). We really do not know how many phobias there are - they could be in the hundreds, if not thousands.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – In this case, it is exactly as the name describes - the sufferer has uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions. In other words, constant stressful thoughts (obsessions), and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing (compulsion).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - this often occurs when somebody has been through a traumatic event - something really upsetting, violent, or frightening that they had experienced or witnessed. During this type of event, the person thinks that their life or other people's lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or feel that they have no control over what is happening.
These are also known as affective or depressive disorders. Patients with these conditions have significant changes in mood, generally involving either mania (elation) or depression which can take a too on your mental health.
Examples of mood disorders include:
- Major depression - the individual is no longer interested in and does not enjoy the usual things that they previously liked doing. There are extreme or prolonged bouts of sadness.
- Bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression. The individual switches from episodes of euphoria (mania) to depression (despair).
- Persistent depressive disorder – a condition that is defined as a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with at least two other symptoms of depression.
- Examples of symptoms include loss of interest in normal activities, hopelessness, low self-esteem, low appetite, low energy, sleep changes, and poor concentration.
- SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - a type of major depression that is triggered by a lack of daylight. It is most common in countries far from the equator during late autumn, winter, and early spring.
You might also like this blog😉: What we're reading: Mental Health
What to do if you’re suffering from a mental disorder or if you’re feeling suicidal?
The first thing to do is know that there is no reason for you to be ashamed of your condition, it’s no different than a cold or a ‘flu. And, just as you would go to a doctor to treat these illnesses, you would need to seek medical advice for mental illness as well.
Suicidal behaviors, and the role of mental illness in the development of it.
Although premature deaths are generally linked to mental illness, specific mental conditions carry with them remarkably high lifetime instances of suicide. 95% of people who commit suicide have a mental illness. In a general sense, mental illness all too often is an isolating experience, with such isolation correlating with suicide.
Hospitalization for a psychiatric disorder is quite prevalent in the suicidal population,  including for people with any depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and substance abuse problems, delirium, and dementia, as well as certain genetic factors. A study assessing the risk for suicide during the 90 days after hospital discharge found that adults with complex psychopathologic disorders with prominent depressive features appear to have an exceptionally high short-term risk for suicide.
Read more here on how you can prevent suicide: https://www.ndtv.com/health/world-suicide-prevention-day-2020-suicides-are-preventable-expert-explains-how-2293219
The right questions to ask someone who deals with a mental illness
Speaking to a loved one, a friend, or someone you know who lives with a mental illness, is not as easy as you might think it is. It's very important to ask the right questions and to always keep it respectful, showing them that you genuinely care. If you are unsure of what to say, here are 9 Questions Someone With a Mental Illness Wishes You Would Ask.
- Can you help me understand what it’s like living with your condition?
- Is there anything you need from me or something I can do to help you?
- Can we do something together – get coffee, go for a walk, or see a movie?
(Just because the person has a mental illness doesn’t mean he/she won’t want to do regular activities)
- What is your diagnosis and how do you feel about it?
- Do you need to talk? (Sometimes talking can help make things feel a little better.)
- What can I do to be there for you, and help you feel supported?
- How can I support you – can I listen to you, leave you alone or give you a hug?
- Has living with this condition shaped who you are today?
- How are you doing? You don’t seem like yourself, and I want to know how you’re really feeling because I care about you.
Who do you call?
The first person to call would be your GP, for a full diagnosis of your condition. He or she can then refer you to a specialist doctor for further treatment. If you need help immediately, and your GP is not available, and you feel like you cannot cope, you can speak to a trained counselor by calling Lifeline on 0861 322 322, any time during the day or night, and at every day of the year. If you’d like to contact a Lifeline office near you and arrange a face-to-face counseling session, visit Life Line SA for more information.
For all suicidal support and to get the help you need, call any of the following numbers:
- Helpline: 0861-322-322
- The South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group(link is external)
- Helpline 1: 0800 21 22 23 (8am to 8pm)
Helpline 2: 0800 12 13 14 (8pm to 8am)
One final thought on mental health
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s likely that your doctor would have put you on some form of medication that you’re required to take on a daily basis. With so many things happening all at once, and you trying to cope, there’s a great possibility that you might forget to take your meds. Don’t worry. Simply download the Memo Health Assitant app by clicking the image below, set up daily reminders to take your meds when you need to, and you’ll feel better soon!