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July is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health refers to a person’s condition with regard to their psychological, emotional, and social well-being. According to World Health Organization (WHO), it is a “state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community”.

Mental Health: Challenges and Solutions

Many factors influence mental well-being. These can be personal, family-related, community-based, or even larger societal issues. While most people can bounce back from difficulties, those facing poverty, violence, disability, or inequality are more likely to experience mental health challenges.

The good news? Many mental health conditions are treatable and affordable. The bad news? Healthcare systems often lack the resources to provide proper treatment, and there’s a significant gap between need and access. Additionally, the quality of care can be inconsistent, and people with mental health conditions may face stigma and discrimination.

Mental health conditions are widespread. Roughly 1 in 5 adults experience a mental illness each year. These conditions can develop at any point in life, but often begin earlier on.

Prevention isn’t perfect, but help is available. There’s no guaranteed way to prevent mental illness. However, if you experience signs or symptoms, seeking professional help from your doctor or a mental health professional is crucial. Remember, most mental illnesses won’t improve by themselves and can worsen over time, leading to serious problems.

Types of Mental Illness

Mental health conditions come in many forms, each with unique symptoms. Here’s a breakdown of some major categories:

  • Mood disorders: These affect emotional well-being, like depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Eating disorders: These involve unhealthy eating habits and distorted body image, such as anorexia nervosa.
  • Anxiety disorders: These cause excessive worry and fear, including generalized anxiety disorder and phobias.
  • Personality disorders: These involve inflexible and long-lasting personality traits that can cause problems in relationships, like borderline personality disorder.
  • Substance use disorders: These involve problematic use of drugs or alcohol, leading to addiction.
  • Psychotic disorders: These can cause hallucinations or a detachment from reality, like schizophrenia.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): This involves unwanted thoughts and urges that lead to repetitive behaviors.
  • Trauma-related disorders: These develop after experiencing a traumatic event, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Beyond these common categories, there are less frequent conditions like dissociative disorders (disruptions in memory or identity), stress response syndrome, and tic disorders (involuntary movements or sounds).

Signs of Mental Illness

Many people experience mental health concerns from time to time, however, a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when the ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect the person’s ability to function.

  • withdrawing from people, friends and activities
  • feeling sad or down
  • lack of motivation
  • unreasonable anger or irritability, hostility or violence
  • extreme mood swings and changes in highs and lows
  • sex drive changes
  • obsession with a topic like religion or death
  • poor concentration and memory, not being able to follow a conversation
  • unusual or illogical thoughts
  • hearing voices that no one else can hear
  • decreased or increased sleep
  • increased or low appetite, preoccupied with control over food, calories, and excessive exercise
  • alcohol and drug use/abuse
  • letting go of personal hygiene and other responsibilities
  • not doing well at school or at work
  • suicidal thoughts or feeling that life is not worth living

Contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
Phone 0800 567 567

Suicide Awareness

Looking out for our friends and loved ones is an important part of preventing suicides. Easy access to mental health treatment can be key to saving the life of someone who struggles with suicidal thoughts. Seeing them go through the pain and struggle to cope with their thoughts and feelings can be hard, and approaching and encouraging them to seek therapy can be a tricky situation. Learn more about suicide risk factors, warning signs, and prevention.

Visit the links below for more information on mental illness.

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