What is mental health?
Mental health affects us all. We can all develop it and we can all lose it.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) mental health “feeling of well-being in which everyone fulfills their own potential, manages to normal life stress, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to the benefit of their community.”
Mental health is not just the absence of mental illness, but by meaningful fulfillment of one’s own life possibilities.
What is mental illness?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness (the term mental disorder is usually used in medical terminology) is “health problems that involve changes in emotions, thinking, or behavior (or a combination thereof).” Mental illness is associated with stress and / or difficulty functioning in social, work or family activities.”
What are the main types of mental illness?
There are a large number of specific diagnoses of mental illness. Different classification systems classify them in different ways. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is used in the USA, the International Classification of Diseases is binding in Europe).
Basic division of mental illnesses:
affective disorders (mood disorders) – these are diseases in which there is a long-term and severe mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder
anxiety / neurotic disorders – the predominant symptom is anxiety (fear), such as various phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, but also includes post-traumatic stress disorder.
psychotic disorders – these are serious diseases in which contact with reality is disturbed, there are hallucinations and delusions about the world and the environment (eg schizophrenia).
disorders associated with the use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances – in contrast to the common belief, one simply does not choose addiction, it is a mental illness, which is caused by a number of biological, psychological and social factors.
personality disorders – means that certain personality traits are so pronounced that they complicate a person’s integration into ordinary society (eg narcissistic, histrionic or emotionally unstable personality disorder, also known as borderline).
Other mental illnesses you may encounter include eating disorders, sleep or sexual disorders, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), or autism. However, organic disorders such as dementia and brain damage disorders and mental retardation are also included.
What are “serious mental illness” (SMI)?
In the context of reforms of mental health care uses the concept of ” serious mental illness ” (in English ” severe mental illness ” SMI). This includes the most severe forms of mental illness, which have so far been treated mainly in large psychiatric hospitals and for which mental health centers are designated .Diagnostically, this includes disorders of the psychotic spectrum, severe forms of affective disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (the only category of neurotic disorders) and severe forms of personality disorders.The severity of the disease is determined not only by the diagnosis, but also by how significantly it disrupts the normal life of a person with the disease and how long the disease lasts – in severe forms it is 2 years or more.
How many people are affected by mental illness?
According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives.
For a better idea, we present data for some specific areas of the disease:
severe depression: 4%
psychotic disorders: 1.5%
anxiety disorders: 7.3%
alcohol dependence: 6.6%
What are the causes of mental illness?
The causes of mental illness have not yet been fully elucidated scientifically. Experts today mostly agree that their development is the result of a combination of genetic assumptions (if someone in the family had a mental illness), psychological development (if the person grew up in a good family background) and social background (satisfactory relationships and socioeconomic application). However, the ratio of these components varies depending on the type of disease – in organic disorders, mental retardation and to some extent ADHD and autism, the biological component plays a large role and is relatively well described. For the other categories, however, there are many more unknowns.
Trauma can be a major trigger for mental illness. This may be based on a single traumatic event (eg accident, death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse) and / or long-term stress (eg neglected and abused children). However, broader social and environmental factors also play a role here, such as poverty, crime, war, natural and man-made disasters, etc.
However, everyone is different and it is not possible to say in advance who will develop mental illness. Some may have such a strong genetic load that they develop a mental illness despite a good background in life. On the other hand, someone else may experience an event that would be very traumatic for someone else, but due to their innate resistance or good coping mechanisms, they will not develop any disease. In any case, quality and timely professional care can significantly mitigate the impact of the disease.
Although various psychological and social factors play a role in the prevention, development and treatment of mental illness, these diseases affect all sections of the population, regardless of their wealth, intellect, education and status.
Mental illness is diagnosed by health professionals: clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.
Is it possible to cure mental illness?
There are a whole range of forms: someone heals completely, someone else suffers from the disease to a greater or lesser extent throughout life. However, it is always possible to embark on a path of recovery, which does not necessarily mean getting rid of all the symptoms of mental illness. After stabilizing one’s problems, one can discover new values, hobbies, friends, or belonging to a larger cultural or ecological whole; healthy spirituality, which is also an integral part of mental health (for more see Recovery ).
Both biological (eg psychopharmacology) and psychological (psychotherapy) methods are used to treat mental illness. It is also important to support the environment and, in the case of more serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, also community services, which help their clients to integrate back into the running of society.
Is there a clear dividing line between mental health and illness?
In recent years, experts have increasingly considered mental health and illness as a continuum. According to this approach, it is necessary to look at a person’s mental health as a condition that changes depending on external and internal conditions. It does not work only with two opposite (dichotomous) categories of HEALTH – DISEASE, but with the whole spectrum of phases defined by various changes in functioning and experience. During their life, each person shifts on this spectrum in response to the surrounding stimuli (stress, trauma, rest, psycho hygiene….) And depending on personal resistance and genetic predispositions. According to the concept of the continuum, it is clear that even a person who has been diagnosed with a mental illness can once again experience mental well-being, personal satisfaction and move towards their own RECOVERY.