Mental Health | Breaking the Taboo of Depression and Other Mental Health Illnesses
Mental health is one of the most difficult topics to bring up with others, apart from sex. No one wants to admit aloud that he or she is suffering from depression or anxiety because in our society it is still perceived as a weakness to some extent. Although there have been numerous studies that a large number of people suffer from mental health conditions, many not diagnosed, it is still perceived as a private matter not to be discussed openly.
The problem with this mindset is that it makes it difficult for those who need to ask for help to come forward and seek proper care before the thoughts of depression, anxiety, or suicidal tendencies become overwhelming. Mental health issues do not always manifest with suicidal thoughts. I have suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, and ADD/ADHD for well over ten (10) years, and have only once had a period of thoughts of “wouldn’t life be better if I feel asleep and did not wake up” when I was taking a hormone injection, called Lupron Depot, that caused a chemical menopause.
Each person is different. Each experience with mental health issues is different. For these reasons, it is important for you to seek professional care when your sadness is more than being sad. When your anxiousness prevents you from normal activities. When your racing thoughts keep you from sleeping at night.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the three main illnesses diagnosed: depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. After, I will briefly discuss some tips on what to do if a friend or family member approaches you with concerns about his or her mental health.
Depression is a mental health disorder that manifests with a persistent feeling of sadness typically characterized by a loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy.
Common symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior or self-esteem.
- Emerging dark side, or abnormal fascination with death
- thoughts of suicide may be present
Anxiety is a mental health disorder typically characterized by strong or overwhelming feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that interfere with one’s daily life.
Common symptoms are:
- Stress out of proportion to impact of event
- Inability to set aside issue
- racing thoughts
- abnormal heartbeat
- poor concentration
Bipolar disorder is a common mental health disorder characterized by severe mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. Over 3 million US cases per year are diagnosed.
Manic (high) symptoms:
- high energy
- reduced need for sleep
- loss of touch with reality
Depressive episodes symptoms:
- low energy and/or motivation
- loss of interest in daily life
- may have suicidal thoughts
How to React When Someone Approaches You with a Mental Health Concern
If your loved one has not sought help yet, encourage them to seek help. A check up with a general practitioner is better than nothing, but a search on Psychology Today will help you find a great therapist in your area! Be encouraging, supportive, and present. Do not judge your loved one or push him or her away – they will need you more than ever.
If your loved one has revealed that he or she has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, do not judge. Be patient. Treatment is not quick. Most treatment plans are long-term programs that may take some time to adjust and find the correct path.
Simply listen. This is the best thing you can do.
You are not expected to fix anything. You are not expected to do anything but be present and supportive. Just as the loving partner of a chronic illness sufferer, there is nothing you can do to change the situation – just be present.
The ONE exception – if your loved one ever expresses any thoughts of suicide please have enough love in your heart to ask “Do you have a plan.” If he or she does, call 911 immediately, or take him or her to the nearest psychiatric center (if you are familiar with it) to be Baker Acted for 72 hours. This is a 72-hour safety hold to evaluate your loved one’s risk to himself and others. If suicidal tendencies are still present, he or she may have a hearing to determine if continued in-patient treatment is necessary to find a better treatment program. This may be one of the hardest things you ever do. I have had to ask this question three times before to three very bright young ladies who were in deep depressions. And, in the moment, they were upset, embarrassed, probably mad… but when it was all over, they were grateful.
Mental health is important. It is not something I take lightly. It is something I joke about in order to make others talk about it, though. So, I guess that is me making light of it in order to raise awareness of it? Regardless, I want you to know that it is an epidemic in our country. Those of us with chronic illnesses suffer from depression due to our daily battle. Children in grade school and high school deal with depression from bullying or just plain hormones! College students suffer from depression because of pressures to succeed… mothers suffer from post-partum depression because of hormones… Military veterans come home and deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome… you see a pattern here?
Everyone is affected by mental health. It does not discriminate.