WHO states, ‘Mental health disorders are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour, and dysfunctional relationships with others.’ Although all of us may go through periods of anxiety or erratic behaviour in our life, it is not a sign of a chronic condition. It is only when this behaviour becomes recurrent over time and starts affecting our ability to function in our daily lives that it is considered a mental health disorder. If you’re a caregiver or a loved one to someone suffering from a mental health disorder it can be tempting to look at it through your lens. In this article, we help you understand how to appropriately care for someone suffering from a mental health disorder without aggravating it.
Stigma is the rejection, avoidance or fear, people direct toward those they perceive as being ‘different’. Mental illness is quite common and many of us struggle with it without seeking help due to the fear of being labelled.
Have you ever engaged with somebody expressing mental issues at any time? Or have you ever experienced it and wondered, “Am I mentally ill?”. If yes, you have an opportunity to help them recover for a healthy life. So, when you happen to meet anybody suffering from mental disorders, the way you treat and react to them should come from a place of empathy and not judgement.
One out of four persons suffers from psychiatric illness at any given point of life. People suffering from mental illness may be around you and yet be struggling invisibly. The challenge is in making people comfortable thereby enabling them to share. Sometimes, it is important to have conversations at length with friends and loved ones to help them share their true emotions. As a loved one, it is your responsibility to be available to your near and dear ones to have conversations about their mental health.
Stigma can cause a range of problems that can aggravate mental health issues such as:
Stigma creates fear, mistrust, and anger in the minds of the public towards people living with/ recovered from mental illness and their families. This leads to social exclusion and rejection. As a result the patient often lives in shame, suffers from low self-esteem, loneliness, and lack of opportunity.
Social isolation is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes and early mortality – “the lethality of loneliness.” Social isolation predicts disability among individuals with mental illness. The stigma affects the treatment outcomes and hinders effective and efficient recovery of mental health issues.
Well, to begin with, treat people with mental health disorders with empathy and understanding. First, we need to educate ourselves about mental health issues to eliminate our own biases. The social stigma attached to mental illness is one of the most difficult hurdles on the path to dealing with the problem.
As the World Health Organisation (WHO) observes the World Mental Health Day on October 10, it clearly seeks to underline the word ‘dignity’. Quite appropriately, thus, this year’s theme of the World Mental Health Day is: ‘Dignity in Mental Health’. It implies that like all other illnesses, people suffering from mental illness need to be treated well and with dignity and his or her human rights are protected.
Mental illness as portrayed in film and popular culture have also bred numerous misconceptions about the disease and its treatment. This has lent the issue of mental illness a social stigma. Result: today a large number of cases of mental illnesses go unreported as people with the illness are reluctant to come out in the open and acknowledge that they are mentally ill.
There have been umpteen reports of mentally ill persons being maltreated, discriminated against, stigmatised and marginalised. Such patients also often have to face physical and mental abuse at health facilities and at the hands of the community, they live with. In the absence of qualified mental health experts and doctors, their suffering increases manifold. We need to work together to raise awareness and act against perpetrators of mental health abuse.
This year, WHO launched an awareness campaign to ensure that people with mental health conditions can continue to live with dignity, through human rights-oriented policy and law, training of health professionals, respect for informed consent to treatment, inclusion in decision-making processes, and public information campaigns. It is essential for us as allies to amplify these campaigns to make the world a better place for those struggling with their mental health.
As a caregiver or loved one to someone suffering from mental health issues, here are a few healthy habits you can help them develop.
Our brain has a built-in warning system which alerts us through different physical and behavioural changes that something is wrong. Mental illnesses do not become severe in a day or two. Just like any physical illness, it shows early signs and symptoms. But we are too busy to notice these signs.
Here are five warning signs you should look out for-
If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental health disorder, call us @+91 96111 94949