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Often misunderstood, distorted with superstitions and seen as a moral weakness, mental illness is a topic rarely touched upon. According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, every 3 in 10 adults, aged 16 years and above, in Malaysia suffer from some form of mental health issues.
It is a challenge to take care of a loved one with mental illness as it often comes with a huge responsibility and commitment. To provide the best chance of recovery to the person you are caring for, it is important to understand what they are suffering from and to get as much information on how you can help and care for them.
Mild mental health problems, such as general anxiety, are common and can be helped through proper guidance and support. More severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, are less common and pose deeper challenges. Understanding the various forms of mental illness is the best way to start. Here are the 5 most common.
1. ANXIETY DISORDERS
Feeling anxious occasionally is normal, but people who suffer from some form of anxiety disorder experience chronic fear, panic and excessive worry over everyday situations. Their feelings can manifest into physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating and trembling. Types of anxiety disorders include:
2. MOOD DISORDERS
While we may all experience moments of sadness, anger and irritability, people with a mood disorder get persistent feelings of sadness, or fluctuations from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. The most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.
3. PSYCHOTIC DISORDERS
This involves distorted awareness and perception. Symptoms of psychotic disorders are hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that are not real) and delusions. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder.
4. EATING DISORDERS
People suffering from eating disorders tend to have extreme behaviour and emotions towards food and their weight. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders.
Involves changes in cognitive ability and consciousness such as memory loss and diminishing motor skills. The most common forms of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and substance-induced dementia (e.g. drugs/alcohol abuse).
It is important to understand that despite the many forms of mental health issues, each affected person experiences it differently. Here are 4 steps you can take to show support, help and care to your loved one with mental illness.
STEP 1: COMMUNICATE
Communication can be difficult for many people with a mental health disorder. They either do not have the motivation to communicate, lack the confidence or are too afraid that others will not understand them. If you see the signs and symptoms of mental illness in a person, reach out to them and make them feel that you are there for them.
Listening is the key here; let them express themselves openly without interrupting or offering your opinion. Provide encouragement and reassurance when they become upset or appear to be struggling with their emotions.
STEP 2: BE POSITIVE
People suffering from mental illness are already overwhelmed with all kinds of negative emotions ranging from confusion, anger, irritability, anxiety to extreme sadness and despair. As a care provider, shower them with positive emotions of hope, love and comfort, so they recognise you as the go-to person in times of need.
STEP 3: LEARN TO ACCEPT
Being labelled as different, difficult, strange or even crazy can make people with mental illness feel isolated and neglected. Accept them for who they are and be supportive in making them feel as normal as possible so they feel wanted and safe in your presence.
STEP 4: SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Many who suffer are afraid to seek medical help or do not feel the need to. If you are taking care of someone with mental illness, you should consult a medical professional to guide you on the medications, dosages and other things to look out for.
When caring for someone else, it is equally important to remember to look after yourself. The task of looking after may come voluntarily out of a good heart but it can be overwhelming. To avoid becoming completely absorbed with someone else’s problems, maintain your own social life and if you begin to feel depressed, anxious or burdened, seek external guidance or professional help.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.