Mental illness is a broad term for a number of disorders and conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. For decades, society has placed a stigma on those who suffer from various mental conditions and disorders; so much in fact that many mentally ill people are unemployed. New studies show that almost 90% of mentally ill are out of work, and is a major barrier to employment due to the stigma that surrounds these illnesses. That puts a tremendous burden on a country’s social services program. Even though they get government benefits, sadly they still live below the poverty line.
Types of Mental Illness
While there are dozens of mental illnesses and disorders that exist today, these are some of the most common:
Depression: This affects one’s everyday activities, including work, family and social activities. It’s not just about being sad or feeling down; for many decades, people would say, ‘just be happy,’ or ‘snap out of it.’ Today, doctors and health care practitioners understand that this is a real disorder that requires medication in many cases to help manage.
Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety and panic attacks can be triggered by any number of circumstances, including stress, fear, and other people. Sometimes, there is no way to predict when an attack will come; other times, they can be managed so that it doesn’t last as long, and is not as bad. These disorders may need medication; there are also resources and methods that can be used to help a person get through a panic or anxiety attack safely and quickly.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This is becoming more prevalent in today’s society, particularly among veterans, police officers and those who deal with traumatic situations on a daily basis. While this has been occurring for thousands of people each year, it was never officially recognized as a disorder until a couple of decades ago. With more awareness come more treatment, and a better understanding of how to deal with the disorder.
This is probably the least understood condition under the mental illness umbrella. Today, there are medications available to manage this disorder, but there is still much research to be done in order to understand how to deal with this. For caretakers, family members and loved ones, living with someone who has bi-polar disorder can be difficult. Extended resources need to be available to those close to the patient, so everyone can be equipped to handle this condition.
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia
These are eating disorders that affect mostly women, and an increasing amount of teenagers. Media and the fashion world has been largely to blamed for this disorder; women and young girls are constantly trying to look like the models they see on the covers of fashion magazines. Until attitudes towards women change (i.e. women must look a certain way, be a certain size, etc.) society will always deal with these types of mental illnesses.
How Perceptions are changing
While prejudice still exists today regarding all types of mental illness, perception is beginning to change and people are slowly becoming more tolerant of people who suffer from these conditions.
The biggest catalysts for change are education and awareness. As a society, we cannot sit back and pretend that problems do not exist. Understanding means tolerance and empathy; it means less stigma and prejudice; and it means less suffering.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, get the help and resources needed as soon as possible. There are plenty of community groups and organizations that are dedicated to helping those in need; both patients and loved ones.