As you may have heard, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In keeping with that topic, I think it is important that we revisit what means to have what people call a disorder or illness. (Personally, I dislike either of those words, so maybe it is more of a mental health discombobulation).
What does it mean to have a mental health issue?
There is a lot we don’t know about mental health biology. We are figuring out more every day. What we do know is that there are differences in the brain with people whose mental health is suffering. This might be caused by an activation of a gene the person has. There are also a lot of chemicals in the brain that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Just like a physical issue, there is also a physical component to mental health.
There are a lot of ways that psychological influences impact mental health. This might be the way someone was treated as a child, for example were they often told or made to feel they are worthless. Another aspect is how a child was allowed or not allowed to express emotions and personality. Experiencing trauma has a huge impact on mental health either as a child or an adult.
The society and culture a person is raised in can also lead to mental health issues. When a person has culture around them that constantly attacks or criticizes the groups they belong to, people begin to feel as though they are lacking and may begin to take on the behaviors suggested by those around them (this is called stereotype threat). If the culture and society is supportive of people they will benefit from that support. For example, the prevalence of schizophrenia worldwide is 1% (meaning about 1% of any given population will experience schizophrenia in their life time). The recovery rate for schizophrenia in third world countries is much higher than in western cultures. One potential reason for this is that communities in third world countries come together to support people who are suffering.
Let’s be very clear that there are numerous ways a person can develop a mental health issue. Having a mental health issue does NOT mean that a person is:
Having a mental health issue does not mean a person is:
Or any of the other words we try to describe people who are suffering with.
Having mental health issues means that the things that lead to mental health are discombobulated in a person who is suffering with their mental health. Please talk about mental health and how we can all work together to improve mental health.