Mental illness is the change in emotions, thinking or behaviour that limits our functioning and decreases our quality of life. We need to remind ourselves of the warning signs of mental health issues.
Mental health is just as important as physical and spiritual health. We take a lot of care to go for our annual checkups and blood works to ensure we are still on par with our health. We go to church, mosque, meditate, read books, we talk to others about our spirituality. Why do we neglect our mental health? Why, when information is readily available about mental illnesses, its triggers, and successful treatments, are we still shying away from the possibility that we or a loved one might be affected?
We easily take that tablet to combat high cholesterol but dare someone suggest that you will benefit from an anti-depressant or something to calm your nerves, we feel insulted. “I am coping, I am coping, I am coping with life”, we keep on telling ourselves. A mental illness is a clinical condition and should be regarded as such. It is often more complicated to treat mental illnesses than high cholesterol for instance, therefore we need to educate those around us and consider it a team effort.
Mental illness is the change in emotions, thinking or behaviour that limits our functioning and decreases our quality of life. We need to remind ourselves of the warning signs of mental health issues. According to the American Association of Psychiatry, the following signs and symptoms might be an indication that someone needs help: Sleep and appetite changes, mood changes, withdrawal, unusual behavior, apathy, nervousness, struggle to concentrate, increased sensitivity for smells, sounds and touch, decrease in functioning at work or socially. A single sign or symptom might not be significant, often several of these signs and symptoms present simultaneously.
During the past few months, we have all been affected by the pandemic in some or other way. A lot of people became aware of how we struggle when our normal is shattered, what the effect of isolation has on us, the constant fear that our loved ones will contract covid, go to hospital and be alone without us visiting or supporting. We realised that we need to maintain contact with others, nurture relationships and support others for life to make any sense and to look after our mental health. We have all been there, especially during this pandemic.
It is important to have a person that will look out for you when these changes happen as you will often not recognise it in yourself. If you do or you are alerted to these signs in your life, you need to seek professional help. A trusted general practitioner can guide you on your journey and give the appropriate support. In some cases, stressors caused us to go astray, and it is paramount for us to learn skills to handle love, life, and everything else. A psychologist is important to assist us with these coping skills and will also be able to assess whether medication is needed and therefore a psychiatric evaluation. More than ever, you will need a team to accompany you on your journey to mental wellbeing. Don’t shy away, help is around the corner.
Dr. Janet Strauss is a Medical Doctor and Chief Operations Officer at Medwell SA – The Home Health Care Specialists.