Mental illness affects one in five Canadians. Yet, there are still many myths surrounding this subject. Let’s shed some light on this misunderstood illness.
Why talk about mental illness?
When all is well, we underestimate the importance of being mentally healthy. We often tell ourselves, "Mental illness is for other people!" However, no one is immune to being affected by this reality. Statistics show that one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
But what exactly is mental illness? It is a condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling or behaviour in a way that is sufficiently strong to make social integration problematic, or to compromise functioning or relationships with others. The key element of mental illness is the suffering that is often associated with it.
Many people fear and misunderstand mental illness. This fear dissipates when they are better informed.
How does mental illness manifest itself?
Mental illnesses can take many forms and refer to a range of different disorders, each with its own unique characteristics. It is sometimes difficult to establish a precise diagnosis given the complexity and variability of the symptoms. It is often the people around them who first notice certain signs and behaviours in the affected person.
Mental illness includes:
- depressive disorders
- anxiety disorders
- bipolar disorders
- schizophrenia spectrum disorders and other psychotic disorders
- trauma and stress-related disorders
- eating disorders
- personality disorders
To establish a diagnosis of mental illness, a thorough assessment must be carried out by a competent and qualified health professional, such as a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist. To find out what resources are available in your area, contact the CLSC nearest you
How can mental illness be treated?
Many people are reluctant to seek help because they are afraid to be judged, misunderstood or “labelled”. Too often, mental illnesses are detected late. Yet, the sooner the problem is treated, the better the results! So don’t delay seeking help if you or a loved one seems to be developing signs of mental illness.
There are several strategies that can be used to help a person with a mental health problem. Here are the most common ones
Therapy and medical follow-up
Sustained therapy and medical follow-up are recommended in most cases. There are several types of therapy, so the approach and follow-up required must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual's needs and situation. Involvement in these two key elements of management will help the person to better manage their disease.
Medication is an important aspect of treatment. Medication does not usually provide a permanent cure, since mental disorders often result from imbalances in the brain. Medication is usually used to restore balance or stabilize symptoms. Many people may be reluctant to take medication. However, it is often the first step to feeling better and getting healthy again.
Support from family and friends
The importance of support from family and friends cannot be overstated in the management of a mental illness. People need to feel heard, understood, supported and accepted. Isolation can be a real handicap. Joining a support group to share one's experience and learn from others can be very beneficial.
Many resources exist to help people with mental illness and their loved ones. Among them is the Fédération des familles et amis de la personne atteinte de maladie mentale (FFAPAMM), which is made up of more than 40 associations across Quebec that offer a range of services to the loved ones of people with mental illness. You can reach them at 1-855-CRAQUER or at https://www.avantdecraquer.com/.
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about mental illness, especially about the various treatments and resources available.