October is Mental Health Month, with 10th October being World Mental Health Day.
In Australia a 2007 survey found that one in five people between 16 and 85 years of age living in a private dwelling had a common mental illness. This equates to 3.2 million people.
There are different ways of defining the term mental health. For example, the World Health Organization has defined mental health as: “…a state of well being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”
Mental health can be seen as ranging from having good mental health to having mental illness. A person will vary in their position between the two extremes at different points in their life. A person with good mental health will feel in control of their emotions, have good cognitive function and positive interactions with the people around them. In this state a person will perform well at work, in their studies and in family and social relationships.
So what are mental health problems? A variety of terms are used to describe mental health problems; mental illness, emotional disorder, nervous exhaustion and a number of slang terms such as crazy, nuts and mad, that promote stigmatising attitudes and should not be used.
There are a number of different types of mental illness, some of which are common, such as depression and anxiety disorders and others, which are not common like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
We all have days when we feel miserable or down. Usually, we cope with these feelings and they pass. However, if they persist for weeks (or months) and they interfere with day-to-day life then we may have clinical depression often simply called depression.
There is no simple explanation as to what causes depression. In general, it arises when recent or ongoing stress is combined with a personal vulnerability to the disease.
Some illnesses have a major impact by causing premature death while others are major causes of disability. Mental illnesses have their major impact on disability. It helps to understand that the degree of disability which can occur during an episode of mental illness can be comparable to that caused by physical illness.
The disability caused by moderate depression is similar to the impact from relapsing multiple sclerosis, severe asthma, or chronic hepatitis B.
The disability from severe post-traumatic stress disorder is comparable to the disability from paraplegia.
When we are depressed, it can be difficult to imagine ever feeling well again. However, it is important to know that no matter how we may be feeling now, we will feel better. Recovery from depression is the rule not the exception.
Proven strategies for managing depression includes lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms, talking (psychological) treatments and antidepressant medications.
For many people who are developing a mental illness their GP will be the health professional they first turn to for help.
If you think a friend or loved one may be depressed you can help in a number of ways.
It is important to remember that the behavior of someone suffering depression, such as lack of motivation, irritability and the absence of positive response is part of the illness and does not reflect their attitude to you or your relationship with them. As a carer, try to balance being supportive without expecting too much from them.
|Lifeline||13 11 14|
|Kids Helpline (5 o 25 years)||1800 551 800|
|Suicide Call Back Service||1300 659 467|
|Beyondblue||Black Dog Institute|
|Multicultural Mental Health Australia||Reach Out|
|Mental Health First Aid manual||B Kitchener, A Jorm, C Kelly|
|Pfizer Understanding Depression||Information Leaflet|
|Mental Health AJP||Associate Professor Timothy Chen|