MENTAL HEALTH: By Dr. John Khuvung, Police Hospital, Kohima

Mental Health

Mental Health Mental health is a growing concern globally. The incidence of mental illnesses has grown over the period of years. It affects all age groups, but is more commonly seen among adolescence and young adults.Common mental illnesses like depression, neuroses,hysteria,and etc.are often passed off as ‘moodiness ‘or ‘growing pains’. Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors as listed below:

Biological factors include:

Genetics (heredity): Mental illness sometimes run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness may be somewhat more likely to develop one themselves.

• Infections: Certain infections like streptococcus bacteria have been linked with a condition known as Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA) and obsessive compulsive disorder.

• Brain defects and injury to certain areas of the brain:

• Prenatal damage: Birth traumas, loss of oxygen to the brain may be a factor of certain conditions, such as autism.

Substance abuse: Long term substance (drug) abuse has been linked to anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

• Other factors: Poor nutrition may play a role.

Psychological factors include:

Severe psychological trauma suffered as a child(emotional,physical,or sexual abuse)

• Loss of loved one

Neglect

• Poor ability to relate to others

Environmental factors include:

• Death or divorce

A dysfunctional family life

Low self-esteem,anger,or loneliness

• Changing jobs or schools

• Peer pressure

• Social or cultural expectations  (for example, craze of losing weight resulting in eating disorders) Of the mental illnesses, depression is a very common problem among young children and adolescents, especially among offspring of adults with depression. Depression can also strike late in life, and its symptoms include memory impairment, slowed speech and slowed movement. Depression is quite different from sadness, sorrow or even grief. The latter are normal reactions to disappointments and losses, including traumatic events in one’s life. With time, the support and understanding of others, and sometimes with psychological counseling, one can recover from periods of deep sadness. But a person, who is not able to get over these feelings within two weeks, may be suffering from depression. Depression is one of the most common and treatable of all the mental illnesses.Unfortunately, many fail to recognize the illness and get the treatment that would alleviate their suffering. They or their loved ones fail to recognize a pattern and instead may attribute the physical symptoms to “the flu”, the sleeping and eating problems to”stress”,and emotional problems to lack of sleep or improper eating.

If four or more of the following symptoms persist continually for more than two weeks, one should seek professional help:

1. Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed.

2. Noticeable change of appetite, with either significant weight loss not attributable to dieting or weight gain.

3. Noticeable change in sleeping patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep or sleeping too much.

4. Loss of energy, fatigue.

5. Feeling of worthlessness.

6. Inability to concentrate or think indecisiveness.

7. Disturbed thinking.

8. Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches.

9. Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, attempting suicide.

For many victims of depression, these mental and physical feelings seems to follow them night and day, and are not alleviated by happy events or good news.Family,friends,co-workers have an important role to play in helping a person get out of such state. Though the person initially refuses help, does not follow advice and denies the comfort, persistence pays off at the end.  ( Reference:VHAI).

Dr. John Khuvung, Police Hospital Kohima