The subject of mental illness can be broken down into a wide range of subtopics. I’ve arranged those into an A to Z list to give an overview of everything that’s involved.
I don’t think that this list is the be-all and end-all of mental illness, but I think it gives a good look at some of the range of things that we deal with when we look at mental illness.
Nowadays there are many, many mental health advocates working to tackle the stigma against mental illness. These people are so important in helping to educate others about the struggle that people with mental illness face every day, and advocates are often people who have themselves faced mental illness and want to use their story to help others.
People with mental illness face a battle every day and it takes a huge amount of bravery to keep going on our darkest days.
Talking about what we’re going through is crucial when we’re dealing with mental illness. I know for myself that sometimes all I need is someone to listen to me vent to help me get through a particularly rough patch. Opening up that conversation can save a life.
Getting the right diagnosis can help us access the appropriate treatment and support. It can often be difficult to get a diagnosis established, with many mental illnesses having overlapping symptoms, but it’s so important because it can affect what medication or therapy would be best to treat us.
Our mental health can be affected by our environment, including our living situation, the people around us, our working environment, and so on.
There is often a great deal of fear when thinking about seeking help for mental illness. It’s incredibly brave – not weak – to ask for help.
Part of recovering from mental illness, and maintaining good mental health in general, involves growing as a person, learning new skills, and understanding ourselves better.
Many people who struggle with mental illness may have to go to the hospital at some point, whether it’s A&E, or a psychiatric hospital, or both. You can read about my experience in a psychiatric hospital by clicking here.
Mental illness is the same as physical illness. Unfortunately, there is still a common misconception that mental illness is not a “valid” illness, however, with the tireless work of mental health advocates, we are working to change this view.
Mental illness can make our brains feel very jumbled, with overwhelming and intrusive thoughts. This can make even small daily tasks seem impossible and can affect things like sleep and overall wellbeing.
We can all always improve our knowledge about mental illness, and the more we know, the more we can support those who are struggling.
Mental illness can affect all areas of life; relationships, work, general quality of life, and so on.
Medication can be a crucial part of treatment for mental illness, in the same way as it is for physical illness. There is still a stigma around mental health medication, with many people asking questions such as “When are you going to stop taking them?” or “Don’t you think they change who you are?” These are unhelpful questions; questions that you wouldn’t ask someone who has a physical illness and takes medication for their condition. Some people with mental illness will be on medication for the duration of their life, and that’s absolutely okay.
As part of our treatment for mental illness, a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) may be appointed to coordinate your care.
As well as dealing with mental illness itself, many sufferers also have additional obstacles in their way, such as addiction, trauma, or domestic violence.
A psychiatrist can diagnose mental illness and prescribe medication if appropriate.
If someone you care about is experiencing mental illness and you’re not sure how you can help, ask. You can find some useful websites and resources by clicking here, or you can speak to your GP or a mental health professional.
More research is needed into mental illness. We know an awful lot more than we ever have about mental illness, but we need continued research into treatment methods and medications with fewer side-effects.
An important part of mental illness recovery is having a good support system. This may include friends, family, mental health professionals, and/or support groups.
There are numerous types of therapy for different diagnoses, some of which include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation Therapy (EMDR), counselling, and many more. Your psychiatrist or CPN will discuss therapy options with you if appropriate.
If someone opens up to you about their mental health issues, it’s important to be understanding and open-minded. You may not fully understand it, but if that person has put their trust in you, it’s absolutely vital that you show them that their trust has been well placed.
Having our experiences validated is a crucial part of recovery. This can be difficult while the stigma around mental illness still exists, but again, this is why understanding is so important.
Mental health and physical health are intertwined. Mental illness can play a role in exacerbating physical illness, and vice versa.
(Okay I cheated a little bit for X, don’t judge me!) It’s so important that we listen to people with lived experience of mental illness, as we are the ones who know what it’s really like. It’s all well and good listening to the professionals, but who knows what’s going on in our heads better than us?
Each person experiences mental illness in a different way. There may be similarities, but the only person who truly knows how you feel is you. It’s important that you do your best to communicate your needs to the mental health professionals.
I believe that part of recovery from mental illness means taking a zero tolerance policy on unsupportive/toxic people/situations in our lives. Taking back that control can be so empowering and beneficial (alongside our treatment) to regaining good mental health.
Have you had any experience with mental illness? Is there anything you’ve experienced that isn’t on this list? Let me know in the comments.