Mental Health
Mental health is fundamental to us just as much as physical health, and mental health is vital to the effective functioning of the a society. 

World Mental Health surveys found that low-income and middle-income countries are home to most of the world's 450 million people with mental disorders.  Between 76 -85% of people living with mental disorders in developing countries receive no treatment for the disorder.

Low and middle income countries tend to significantly lack mental health resources, with limited psychiatric specialists and scarce available funding. There is need for innovative strategies that better utilize the limited resource available in developing countries so that those with mental disorders in these countries receive effective  mental health care.
What is Mental Health?
WHO defines mental health as a "a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."

The Center for Disease Control identifies three indicators of mental health:
  • Emotional well-being: To feel satisfied and at peace with life.
  • Psychological well-being: To feel confident in the ability to adapt to life challenges and to direct one's life.
  • Social well-being: To feel socially accepted, useful, and a part of one's community.

A person is mentally healthy when he or she:

  • can think clearly and make decisions,
  • is comfortable and confident,
  • can deal with daily challenges,
  • is able to maintain healthy and enriching relationships with others
  • is spiritually at ease

What is Mental Illness and Mental Distress?

It is normal and healthy to feel stressed once in a while. All of us experience some sort of pressure at one point in time, but when emotional or behavioral problems become serious enough to affect your ability to function on a day-to-day basis, then you may be experiencing some sort of mental illness.

Mental distress is a broader term than mental illness, used to describe troubling and oftentimes confusing experiences.  Everyone experiences mental distress at certain times in their life, whether due to bereavement, stress, or other factors.

Research has not shown the exact cause of mental illness, however, recent research suggests that mental illness may be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Biological factors

Psychological factors

Environmental factors

Genetic, Prenatal damage (disruption of early fetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth), malnutrition, hormonal change due to aging, pregnancy, disease, and brain injury are some biological determinants of mental illness.
Severe psychological trauma, especially when experienced as a child, is a psychological factor linked with mental illness.  This includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse and neglect.

Environmental factors linked with mental illness include poverty, chronic disease, death and divorce

and a dysfunctional family life.

Types of Mental Illness
The ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) and the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) are commonly used to categorize mental disorders.  The categorization of mental disorders is controversial, and no categorization will accurately describe the disparate sets of symptoms people commonly experience.  The categorization and clarification of mental disorders can be helpful.  Giving a name to the set of symptoms an individual suffers from can be therapeutic.

Common categories of mental illness include:

  • Mood Disorders: These disorders involve persistent disabling issues with one's mood.  Mood disorders include major depression and bipolar disorders.
  • Anxiety Disorders: These disorders involve a disabling fear of certain situations.  Anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
  • Substance Abuse Disorders: These disorders involve the consumption of a particular substance in a way that is harmful or problematic to the individual.
  • Psychotic Disorders: These disorders involve a disabling  loss of contact with reality that often include delusions or hallucinations.  Schizophrenia is common example of a psychotic disorder.
  • Personality Disorders:  The classification of these disorders is controversial, because they involve a set of behaviors that differ from societal expectations.

Other mental disorders include eating disorders, addiction disorders, disorders experienced by children, and dementia.

Treatments for Mental Illness
There is a wide range of treatments and therapies for mental disorders.  The most common treatments for mental disorders are medications and talk therapies. Electro-convulsive therapy can be used in severe cases.  There are also a wide range of complementary therapies available.

  • Psychotropic Medication: Commonly used psychotropic medications include anti-psychotics (to relieve symptoms of psychosis), antidepressants (to relieve symptoms of depression), mood stabilizers (to moderate extreme mood changes), and benzodiazepines (to relieve of anxiety).  Psychotropic medications can often be effective, though some people taking these medications experience side effects, and sometimes these side effects are severe.

  • Talk Therapy:  Talk therapy refers to a range of psychotherapies including psychoanalysis (which involves the client using their own insight to solve psychological issues), cognitive behavioral therapy (which uses goal oriented procedures to address current issues), creative therapies (which use art and drama to deal mainly with emotional issues), mindfulness-based therapies (which focuses on becoming aware and accepting thoughts and  feelings), and  counseling  (which is focuses on open communication).

  • Complementary Therapies: A variety of complementary therapies are available, including massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, acupuncture, shiatsu,

One of the most important aspects of any treatment for mental illness is social support.  Social support is a network of friends, family, and others that provide nurtuarance, advice, companionship, and tangible benefits.

Many individuals suffering from mental illness struggle with stigma associated with mental illness.  People in many societies are afraid to seek support from their community and from health professionals due to stigma.  People suffering from mental illness are often excluded from participating fully in their communities

Stigma often exists due to a lack of knowledge about mental illness.  Traditional notion that mental illness is a disgrace to the family or the product of a curse are widespread in many parts of the world. Other misconceptions such as the belief that those with mental illness are lazy, weak, or violent are common. The media oftentimes will reinforce stigma through negative portrayals of those living with mental illness.

Public education campaigns and public dialogues can be effective methods to reduce stigma. Including people with mental disorders in every aspect of life is also important in the fight against stigma.
Coping Skills
Coping skills are strategies used to solve day to day problems or minimize stress and conflct.  Coping skills include constructive coping and maladaptive coping.  Some constructive coping skills include:
  • Relaxation
  • Exercise
  • Preparing for challenges
  • Writing in a journal
  • Eating healthily
  • Meditation
  • Talking with a family member or friend

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