Mental Health: The More We Know, The More We Can Help


     Before a presentation, someone may be looking extremely nervous. Maybe, you walk over to the person, or maybe you just let them be because you realize what’s going on. If you decide to walk over, you’ve decided on a wrong move (unless you’re a certified doctor then that’s a different story). This person may try to shrug you off or even get mad. Then you get offended. What you don’t realize is that this person has an anxiety disorder, and really can’t help it. A different scenario would be seeing someone overly sad. Nearly so sad they can’t even function properly. Even when you try, there’s nothing possible you can do to cheer them up. This person has depression, severely if they’re barely able to function. It may sadden you to see someone that has these disorders, yet still knowing there’s nothing in your power you can do. There are countless reasons to be informed about mental illnesses.

The terms ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental health’ are thrown around a lot. A mental illness only affects your mind, and it impacts how you act. By ‘act’ I don’t mean physically, but how you react to different situations and how you comprehend them. The main reason the terms are misunderstood is because you can’t see the illness from plain sight. Many people hide their illnesses so well, it’s the main reason they never seek treatment. When I first heard the term ‘mental illness’ I thought I had a clear understanding of it. As it turned out, my vision was completely off. When you think of a mental illness, you may think of someone not being able to use their brain in the correct way, or the person being incapable of signaling their brain to do something they want it to. All a mental illness really does is affect your thinking pattern by changing your mood or behavior. A person with one of these illnesses may seem to react to things differently, but normally there will be no significant difference in their appearance; just how they view the world.

So, how bad is the mental illness problem? To sum it up….
“Our nation is facing a mental health crisis”, or at least that’s what Providence St. Joseph Health states. Across the United States, out of the 40 million adults diagnosed with a mental health condition, less than half are seeking treatment! That’s around 20 million people living in pain, and about another 20 million people that are trying to do something about it. How many children do you think are too scared to speak up about their illnesses? Anyone can have different forms of mental illnesses. They need to seek special treatment that can only be provided by certain doctors. These certain types of doctors, called psychiatrists, have years and years of training and education to help these people with their illnesses.


There are many different forms of mental illnesses, and many unique ways they can be treated. The mental conditions some people can have affect their mood, behavior, and thinking patterns. Mental illnesses can have exotic types and degrees of severity, so depending on how bad the illness is, that can affect the different outcomes of treatments and the different types of treatments that need to be prescribed. A severe mental illness is defined by its length of duration and the types of disabilities it causes. There are many different forms and branches of mental illnesses. I was surprised to find that there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of different mental disorders! Some of the most common base illnesses are depression, anxiety disorders, OCD, and schizophrenia (skit-so-frenia), but there are just too many to name. These base conditions can branch off into something a little more specific, and eventually make hundreds of different diagnoses possible.


Anxiety disorder is a huge mental illness and is the most common one in the United States. Different forms of anxiety disorder are generalized and social anxiety disorder. Both of these conditions have main symptoms: they affect a person becoming overly sensitive and anxious to an object or situation, and then become scared or dreadful of the thing that is provoking them. These people with anxiety disorders may give physical signs that they are feeling particular anxious about something with an unusual amount of sweat erupting or a racing heartbeat. A psychiatrist can diagnose someone with either generalized or social anxiety disorder if they respond differently or inappropriately to a situation, if they can not control their actions and get out of control when they respond, or if the anxiety prevents the person from carrying out normal functions.

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Generalized and social disorders are both forms of anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a disorder women are twice as likely to get than men. It affects 6.8 million people (3.1%) of the US population, but only 43.2% are getting the treatment they need. People with GAD tend to worry about their life with unrealistic scenarios. That then interferes with the person’s thinking, making it impossible to focus on school, work, and everything important in life. Causes of GAD are still not fully understood, but factors include genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors (like stressful or traumatic events).

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), sometimes known as social phobia, is equally common in both men and women. This illness affects more than 15 million people (6.8%) in the United States. Unlike other illnesses, this one hits younger people early on in their life; mostly around the age of thirteen. The illness makes people become very anxious about their actions in front of other people. Since many young adults have social anxiety, it makes public speaking or presenting at school very difficult and scary. You may think the person is shy and make fun of them for ‘overreacting’ around situations you may consider small, but to them, anything dealing with being social could be dreaded for weeks, then months on end.

There can be many to only one causes of a person having a social anxiety attack. The little to many causes affect people’s daily livelihoods. Many people with SAD experience stressful situations in public places. One of my best friends, Drew, suffers from minor SAD. Drew told me, “Last year I started to feel uncomfortable in certain social situations. My mum started to notice it too, but said since I’ve always been such a sociable child, she said not to worry. I’ve read this article and gotten loads of more information about it. Everything that was said about SAD was true to how I felt and acted.”

Drew has also told me about a specific situation: dance class. When she walks in, she immediately walks to the back, not wanting to start a conversation, or jump into an already started one. The only thing she’s hopeful for is no one wanting to interact with her. Unfortunately for poor Drew, the back corner bar can be too squished, and she’s forced to go to the middle. Other times, the teacher will ask for everyone to switch lines, and she’s pushed up to the front. She hates it, and feels self conscious, like everyone is judging her moves. Once the class starts, she focuses on her moves. When the other girls around her begin to speak, she refuses to allow herself to do so. She silently stands there, giving the teacher her utmost respect and undivided attention; even though, sometimes, she would rather do otherwise. Postpartum disorder is something new mothers may tend to experience. You may be thinking, “How can someone be upset after having their own child?” It can be triggered by hormonal changes and lack of sleep. If depression runs in the family, the mother could be more likely to have postpartum depression.

Have you ever seen a person who seems happy, but it’s completely fake? These people only experience small sparks of joy happening every now and then. Without knowing this person actually has an illness, you could know them like this you whole life, but never really know what was wrong. Instead, they hide behind fake smiles and perky attitudes their whole life, just putting on an act. Someone suffering could be walking by you in the street laughing, and you would never know that they are going through depression. Depression is a well-known mental illness. It affected 16.1 million people(6.7%) aged eighteen years or older in the United States from a study in 2015. This mental illness tends to prevail in women more than men. Depression is commonly misunderstood because every human being has a stage of lonely feelings, and sometimes people believe they have depression when they have those periods in their life. Depression is a serious mental illness, and gives you constant feelings of nothing and emptiness. Many people that have this unfortunate mental condition never feel joyful, excited, or look forward to anything and view it as fun.
There are many different types of depression. A few common examples would be major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder (also less commonly known as manic depression), and postpartum depression. Major depressive disorder is an on-going feeling of sadness and an apathetic (‘I don’t care’) attitude most days of the week.Related image

Sometimes, bipolar disorder is categorized into its’ own type of mental illness, but technically speaking, it’s another form of depression. The prefix ‘bi’ means two, so the word bipolar translates to someone view the world at two opposing viewpoints. Think about it like the two poles, North and South. They are on the complete opposite sides of the world, just as the crazy mood swings in bipolar disorder. Someone with bipolar disorder can go from having wonderful, happy thoughts to thinking depressing, and even suicidal thoughts. Bipolar disorder is really someone having insane mood swings and going from being overly happy to awful depression.

Obsessive compulsive disorder, more commonly known as OCD, is the need for people to check things or do certain routines repeatedly. It’s common for people to have some severity of OCD. Everyone’s OCD-type thing can vary. Everyday, I check at least five times within one minute just to make sure I have my phone. Other people go crazy when things aren’t symmetrical. Those are examples of very, very mild OCD and don’t make an impact on people’s daily lives. Other people have certain routines (they may refer to them as rituals) that can take more than an hour a day to perform. They may wash their hands constantly, or check then recheck over and over again to make sure the door is locked. These things impact people’s lives and can make them reschedule things accordingly.

People who don’t act normally and interpret reality incorrectly have a mental disorder called schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia see, smell, hear, and feel things that aren’t even there. For example, you may see someone living on the streets talking to no one, but they think the person they’re talking to is real. This is an example of someone having an delusion. Other people become paranoid because they hear voices in their heads non-stop. If someone constantly touches their arm, it could be because they have a feeling that there is something there; like a bug crawling.
Nearly all treatments are the same for mental illnesses. The base treatments are therapy and medications. Different types of therapy can be provided depending on the illness. For example, if diagnosed with GAD, medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy are used. Specific medications could be benzodiazepines, which are medications that remove strong feelings of small anxiety. A more ‘zenful’ way to aide illnesses is by cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people realize their change in thought pattern and behaviors leading to anxious and unpleasant feelings. If someone has postpartum, the treatment is therapy without the newborn. Different types of therapy can vary with doctors as well. Specific doctors take on specific types of illnesses and therapies. The medications try to help with the pain the illness is inflicting on someone. The medications work the same way as they would for some sort of regular sickness, taking any thoughts of pain away and making you feel better.

People everywhere are convinced there is a mental health break out. With less than half of people getting treatments for their illnesses, it is clear action is needed to be taken. Rod Hochmann, doctor at Providence St. Joseph Health, spoke, “Now, with one in five Americans facing some type of behavioral health issue, it’s clear that incremental change is no longer enough. It’s time for bold thinking and even bolder action.” Doctors everywhere, everyday, are looking for ways to improve mental health treatments. They hope to one day have most people getting the treatments they seek and need. For now, we can help loved ones and friends by supporting them every step of the way in treatments and encouraging them to believe in a brighter future. Hopefully, that bright future will arrive soon.From the interweb: