Coping with Mental Illness

Can you tell the face of a person faced with Mental Illness? I have come to discover many people that I never knew had that illness but walked around with a smile on their faces daily whilst suffering behind closed doors. There is never a defined face for Mental Illness.

So what is Mental Illness? Mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.  There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events.

As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment, many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder.

The theme for the 2018 Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20 May) being hosted by Mental Health Foundation, is STRESS. Research has shown that two-thirds of people experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.

Stress is not a mental health problem in itself but it is a key cause of mental health problems like depression and anxiety and is often linked to self-harm and suicide. Stress is also known to lead to physical health problems like muscle and joint pain and cardiovascular problems.

By tackling stress, we can look at ways to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide: 

The attachment which can be downloaded for free focuses on what can be done to manage and reduce stress and the recommendations for the government in creating a stress-free environment.

It is especially important to pay attention to sudden changes in thoughts and behaviors. Also keep in mind that the onset of several of the symptoms below, and not just anyone change, indicates a problem that should be assessed. The symptoms below should not be due to recent substance use or another medical condition.

In Adults, Young Adults, and Adolescents:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries, and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance use

In Older Children and Pre-Adolescents:

  • Substance use
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

How to look after your Mental Health:

  • Talk about your feelings: Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled. Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members.  A mental health professional can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one’s illness.
  • Take a break: Taking a break is good for us. A change of scene or a change of pace can be good for your mental health. A good place in the UK to visit is Ashburnham Place. They provide a place for retreat, rest, refreshment and connection for people from all walks of life and are set in 220 acres of stunning grounds and gardens with three lakes and an abundance of nature. They are also developing Ashburnham Place as an excellent place for people who are vulnerable or rebuilding afterlife crises to be cared for and to recover.  Their aim is to help return people to healthy, sustainable and inter-dependent living. 
  • Eat Well: What we eat may affect how we feel. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
  • Keep in touch: Strong family ties and friendships can help you deal with the stresses of life and maintain good mental health.
  • Stay Active: Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and look and feel better.
  • Drink sensibly: We often drink alcohol to change our mood, but drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.
  • Do something that you are good at doing: Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Do an activity you’re good at to improve your mood.
  • Ask for help: None of us are superhuman. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help.
  • Care for others: Doing good for others does you good. Take time to care for others to improve both your and their mental health.
  • Accept who You Are: We’re all different. Accept and be proud of who you are rather than wishing you were more like someone else.

Again, as I earlier said, there is never a defined face for mental illness. It is important to remember that there is hope for recovery and that with treatment many people with mental illness return to a productive and fulfilling life.

Do you know anyone who needs urgent help?

If their mental or emotional state quickly gets worse, or you’re worried about someone you know – help is available. You’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.

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Yours in love – The Renaissance Lady ©

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