Mental Health Awareness
Mental health is something you hear a lot about, though at the same time, it’s something that doesn’t necessarily get talked about enough due to many people still finding it to be a taboo subject – often due to the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds it. To date, as many as 1 in 3 Canadians experience mental illness in their lifetime – either directly or indirectly (either with they themselves experiencing it, or having friends, family or colleagues who have experienced mental illness.) Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of all other aspects of your health, and it’s an important discussion to have as it helps raise awareness as to what someone who may not be as educated into what mental illness looks like have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms to watch for, not just in themselves but in others as well.
As for what causes mental illness, it is often a combination of factors including genetic, biological, personality, as well as environmental. There are also many different types of mental illnesses that one can be diagnosed with, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders, and even substance abuse. Below is a more in-depth look at these disorders.
Mood disorders are generally the most common types of mental health disorders that individuals are diagnosed with and include things like depression and bipolar disorder. If you suffer from depression then you may notice feelings of sadness (usually lasting for several weeks), notice a decrease in your energy level or find that you’re feeling less motivated, or lose interest in things you once enjoyed. It is also often described as a “numb” feeling. If you are bipolar, you may find that you experience high highs and low lows. During extreme highs, also known as mania, you may be overactive and happy; while during extreme lows, you might feel lethargic and depressed. There are also two types of bipolar disorder that one can be diagnosed with – bipolar I, in which you are more likely to experience longer periods of mania, and bipolar II, in which you will have shorter and less severe episodes of both mania and depression, and find that you may even have periods in which your mood seems normal.
Anxiety disorders are also common and can have a major impact on your day-to-day activities as well as your ability to concentrate, sleep, and perform well at school or work. Anxiety disorders can also be complex, and you may find yourself wanting to avoid stress or going out in public. Anxiety can also manifest into physical symptoms. For example, you may find that it feels as if your heart is pounding, you may find yourself shaky/trembling, sweating, or find that you feel as though you are short of breath. Anxiety can be genetic, it can be caused as a result of stress, physical health issues, or even caused by experiencing a traumatic event.
When it comes to personality disorders, there are also many types, though they often refer to a pattern of extreme and inflexible thinking, behaviour and emotion, and those with a personality disorder may find it difficult to adapt to certain situations as well as forming relationships with others. Someone with a personality disorder may appear to be withdrawn, while others may be eccentric, dramatic, and over-emotional. The first signs of a personality disorder usually appear during adolescence, though they can occur at any age. A personality disorder also often co-exists with other types of mental health disorders, such as depression and substance abuse.
Schizophrenia, which is considered a psychotic disorder or psychosis, is a severe mental illness that causes an individual to have an altered perception of reality, as well as affects one’s behaviour and ability to function at school or work, and the way in which they relate to others. Among the main symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and hallucinations. An individual may see or hear things that aren’t there, such as voices, and this can often be a frightening experience. Other symptoms of schizophrenia include lack of motivation, confusion, and other unusual behaviour. There are many misconceptions when it comes to schizophrenia, the most common being that individuals with schizophrenia have a “split personality” – though this is not the case.