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Understanding Mental Health

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There’s no better time to spread awareness and reduce the stigma regarding mental health.

What is mental health?
A general description is that mental health involves a broad range of medical illnesses that have symptoms involving disorders of thought, feeling and behavior, and/or impairment in functioning in relation to a social, psychological, genetic, chemical, or biological disturbance.

While thinking of mental health, many people immediately recognize disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, and other disorders such as dementia.

There are particular theories which believe that mental health is not a brain/chemical based means of contributing to disorders in general. Others certainly do recognize mental disorders or illnesses as having some biological element or similar contributions, which strongly relates to any given mental health diagnosis. Others may construe mental health as being mentally ‘healthy.’ Whatever any particular theories may suggest and without delving into scientific reasoning and the like, mental health can be interpreted as maintaining or striving to improve mental, cognitive and emotional well-being.

So, regardless of varying definitions and beliefs, one may assume that we would generally agree that mental health is an in-depth field, and the reality is that it begins with a clinical diagnosis.

Causes of mental health disorders
Mental health disorders are caused due to a variety of reasons. An individual can experience a mental health disorder for the first time due to a tragic event, long term neglect or abuse, a genetic predisposition to depression, or even a brain disorder that is medical in nature. The results vary widely and may need a professional to help diagnose and treat, but the most common mental health issue is depression and is experienced by many individuals at least once in their lifetime. Those with a genetic predisposition to depression or another affective disorder like bipolar disorder tend to have multiple incidents and typically require some form of treatment.

Consequences of mental health disorders
The consequences of untreated mental health disorders can be extremely damaging for an individual. At every stage of depression, the individual continues to behave less like themselves. They become more sedentary, less social, thinking it difficult to think clearly and in extreme cases may develop paranoid ideas. In all these scenarios, society tends to keep away from these individuals when perhaps they need others most. Individuals with mental disorders tend to have an increased risk of chronic medical disorders.

Who are affected by mental health disorder?
One in four people in the world today are impacted by a mental health disorder. It may be common depression, alcohol or substance abuse, relationship problems, post-traumatic stress, or perhaps a more serious chemical or brain disorder. Apart from the individual, the next set of people who are impacted by this are the caregivers and the family members of the individual.

Prognosis of recovery
What are the chances of recovering? What disorders or illnesses have a better prognosis? What about chances of relapse? How long might it take to feel ‘normal’ again? These are some common questions yet none of them have a simple answer. To put it briefly, some disorders are recognized as having a better success rate in the recovery of ill health than others. Illnesses such as Paranoid Schizophrenia are regarded as serious conditions and generally do not have as high of a success or recovery rate compared to someone battling depression. Generally, depression is regarded as treatable and having a very good prognosis whereas other illnesses such as Schizophrenia have estimations as high as one-third of sufferers who remain unwell. Therefore the prognosis of recovery with particular illnesses such as this has a lower rate in the expectation of reduced symptoms or recovery.

Can mental health disorders be treated?
As earlier discussed on the prognosis of mental health recovery, it is important to note that recovery depends on the type of mental health illness. One of the most effective methods to treat a mental health disorder is to seek the consultation of a mental health professional or family doctor. Mental health therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and one’s family and social network play a big role in treating an individual suffering from a mental health disorder.

Mental health cannot be compromised by any individual at any cost. One may not need to take medication to keep it fit and fine, but should be considered when prescribed by a medical professional as part of a treatment plan. Recognizing these issues early can speed up recovery even if the recovery rate is said to be low. As long as one takes steps to deal with their mental health like one would do with their physical health the recovery rate can increase.

For more information, visit Mental Health America.