5 things you probably didn’t know about mental health
Modern medical research has done wonders when it comes to things like knowing how our heart functions or developing vaccines that can protect us from infectious diseases. But when it comes to mental health, we’re still getting to grips with how this miraculous organ called our brain functions.
Unfortunately, this gap in our knowledge leads to stigma, which only perpetuates the issue. So, it’s time to educate ourselves and be informed, so that we can be there for those who need mental health support and be able to identify symptoms in ourselves when we need to see a professional.
Here are five things you may not have known about mental health and taking care of it:
Mental health is tied to physical health
People commonly compartmentalise these, thinking that they are unrelated, but this is completely not the case. If you’re experiencing intense anxiety for example, your quality of sleep may be affected, which in turn breaks down your immune system, and you’ll then pick up every common cold or stomach virus that’s going around. The two go hand in hand.
Mental illness doesn’t go away on its own
If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, you cannot simply “shake yourself out of it” or “cheer yourself up”. You need to urgently see a medical health professional so you can try and find a way to manage your condition with a variety of medication and/or other treatments.
It’s a lot more common than you think
The South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 1 in 5 South Africans will, or do currently, suffer from a mental illness. That’s someone in your family, someone in your office at work, probably quite a few of your friends. The more we open up and talk about it, the more we can help each other. Some medical aid companies like Fedhealth offer mental wellness programmes which use innovative solutions to empower individuals and provide social, family and workplace support.
Mental health issues and violence are unrelated
There is a common misconception that people with mental health issues are prone to violence, but this is simply not the case. In fact, people with mental health issues are a lot more likely to be the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators. People with mental illness are also a lot more likely to die from suicide. That’s why we need to prioritise and destigmatise those suffering from mental illness, as they need our protection more than anyone.
There is no one cause for mental illness
Many factors are at play here, including genetics, personality factors, physical injuries, substance abuse and traumatic life events. Many of these factors are completely out of the individual’s control, hence there is no reason why those with mental illness should be blamed for their condition. Rather, they need to be supported and guided, so that they can get the care they need and go on to live healthy and productive lives.