Around 15% of people experience mental health difficulties at some time in their lives. Mental health conditions are among the leading causes of disability worldwide, yet many people with these conditions are not treated. They may suffer for years because the problems are not seen as problems. They may be ignored, trivialised, belittled, blamed or stigmatised.
There is an urgent need for greater awareness of mental health issues. People with mental health problems are often treated by health professionals without considering that they may be suffering from a serious disorder. This often results in inadequate treatment and even denial of the problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a reduction of mental health inequalities and the promotion of effective treatment and recovery for all.
Description of psychological disorders
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three people has at least one psychological problem at some point in their lives. This includes problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, addictions, eating disorders and autism. In addition, we find people who are emotionally unstable, have emotional dysregulation, difficulty controlling anger, impulsivity, and antisocial personality disorder.
The WHO estimates that mental health disorders affect around 1 billion adults and children. Although it is estimated that nearly half of the people with psychological problems do not get treatment, they may suffer from a range of problems including:
- Depression. The most common psychological problem affecting people around the world. One in ten people worldwide suffers from depression at some point in their life.
- Anxiety. About 15% of people globally suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can occur after experiencing a terrifying or overwhelming event, such as a war, earthquake, terrorist attack or sexual assault. Up to one in eight people worldwide is believed to experience PTSD.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is an extreme, repetitive pattern of thoughts, sensations, emotions or behaviours that cause great distress. Around two to 4% of the global population have OCD.
- Panic disorder. This is a sudden, recurrent attack of intense fear and/or anxiety. About 5% of people globally have panic disorder.
- Phobia. It is a persistent fear of something. Around 10% of people worldwide have a phobia at some point in their life.
- Addiction. there are various kinds of addiction that include alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, sex, food and the internet. The WHO estimates that between 0.5 and 2.5% of the global population has an addiction problem at some point in their life.
- Eating disorder. It’s an illness that is characterised by distorted attitudes toward food and body image, extreme restriction of food intake, excessive exercise, and weight loss. Anorexia nervosa is the most serious form of eating disorder, with 0.5% of people globally affected. Bulimia nervosa affects 1% of people worldwide, while binge eating disorder affects less than 0.1% of people.
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The condition is defined by impaired social interaction and communication, restricted and repetitive behaviour, and a lack of interests and activities. Up to 3.6% of the global population has ASD.
- Schizophrenia. It’s a mental illness that affects about 1% of the population and involves symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, difficulty focusing, and other abnormal behaviours.
Why do mental health problems happen?
According to Delphix, research has identified a number of factors that contribute to mental health problems. These include a genetic predisposition, stress, a lack of understanding, or a lack of social support.
Genetics are one of the main contributing factors to mental health problems. Genes are the body’s “blueprints”, or instructions, for making the proteins needed to maintain a healthy mind. Having certain genes increases the risk of developing a mental illness.
Mental health problems also occur in individuals who have been exposed to adverse life events, such as abuse, violence, or poverty. Stress is the body’s reaction to a demanding situation. It can make you feel tired, worried, angry, sad, or anxious.
A poor understanding of mental health can increase the risk of mental health problems. When a person does not understand the difference between their thoughts and feelings, and that of other people, they may think they are doing or saying things that are not true. Social support is an important part of dealing with mental health problems. It helps reduce stress, and can also increase motivation to cope with challenges.
Recommendations for taking care of a person with mental health problems
There is no single way to help someone with a mental health problem. However, there are many ways in which you can support others who are facing difficulties in their lives. Here are some suggestions for how you can do this.
- Give information. If someone has a mental health problem, you can help by giving them information. Try to explain what the problem is and how it affects them, but don’t assume you know the answers. If you want to give someone advice, let them ask questions or offer help. If you are worried about the problem, ask them if you can be supportive.
- Listen. If you have a mental health problem yourself, you may find it difficult to listen properly to others. If you have been told that someone close to you has a mental health problem, you may feel anxious or confused about whether they are telling the truth. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, listening to others can be painful. In these circumstances, you may need to practice listening and practising compassionate self-awareness. You may also want to talk to someone else, for example, your GP.
- Offer advice. If someone tells you they have a mental health problem, it may feel inappropriate to offer advice. However, it can be helpful to say how you have managed similar difficulties. It may also help to tell someone else about what has helped you. Your GP may be able to help with suggestions.
- Help others understand mental health problems. You can try to help someone with a mental health problem if you know a little about their situation. If you think you can help, talk about how you have experienced similar difficulties. The more you know, the easier it is to talk. When you are having difficulties, try not to worry about saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. It’s better to say something than to say nothing at all.
- Be a good friend. Being a good friend can be challenging, but if you are a good friend you will be able to make a difference. It’s important to be kind, understanding and patient. Being a good friend can mean being patient when someone is having difficulties. It means letting someone else know when you need a little help yourself. It can also mean supporting someone through a problem and showing that you understand what they are going through.
- Give yourself a break. Sometimes you may be feeling under pressure and stressed. It can be difficult to manage the demands of caring for a person with a mental health problem. You may feel worn out and irritable. Try to work out what helps you relax and then try to do it as much as possible. Remember that taking time out is important. You may need to talk to your GP about how you can look after yourself.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.