by Kimberly Flanagan
Today the world recognises World Mental Health Day, with the theme of suicide prevention and it reminds us to remember all those friends and family members we have either lost to suicide or those who have and are currently suffering from a mental health problem.
If you are unsure, a mental illness that can also be called a mental disorder is a range of conditions that affects your behaviour, your mood, and your thinking.
It shows up in many forms but it has a foundation of an uncontrollable sense of sadness and loneliness. It’s a disease that eats at you from the inside out.
Depression does not show itself externally, it hides behind laughs and smiles and big boisterous actions in public but in private, loneliness and sadness is king.
As mentioned above, the theme for this year is suicide prevention. The sad reality is that we all either know someone or heard of someone who has either tried to commit suicide or sadly, successfully committed suicide. In all truth, we could even be that person.
According to the World Health Organization, someone in the world dies due to suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide attempts and the number of people who die by suicide seems to be an everyday occurrence but that does not mean we should stop fighting to help those struggling with a mental illness.
You need to listen when people speak when they come to you and tell you how they feel. To you, it might not seem like anything important or you might think this person is being overly dramatic, but usually, that is a cry for help.
In the world we live in today, you cannot risk ignoring people when they reach out to you, in whichever way. You might just be the person to help them escape their darkness.
It’s painful isolation, sitting with your own thoughts and a deep sense of hopelessness. It feels like you’re drowning and there is no one to help you.
Suicide affects everyone, it does not care about age or gender or sexual preference. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), the continued and increased participation in social media causes distress amongst young people, with young girls suffering the most. That puts them at risk for depression and other mental health issues.
If you think you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, make sure you are able to recognize the symptoms:
- Feeling of sadness,
- Confused thoughts,
- Struggle to concentrate,
- Increase in worry or an extreme sense of guilt,
- Mood swings, extremes in highs and low,
- Isolation, withdrawal from friends and family and taking part in activities,
- Extreme tiredness,
- Delusions, paranoia,
- Inability to handle stress,
- Substance abuse,
- Changes in eating habits,
- Excessive hostility or violence,
- Suicidal thoughts
Many things can trigger mental illness and sometimes you sit with the disease without knowing you have it until it’s too late. It’s very difficult to word your feelings when you’re in that dark place. Some causes for mental illness are listed below:
- Genetic: Being related to someone with a mental illness can increase your risk or experiencing it.
- Substance abuse: Drugs and alcohol can trigger bipolar or paranoia.
- Biological factors: Some medical conditions or hormonal changes can also be a trigger.
- Early life environment: Childhood experiences such as abuse or neglect can increase the risk of mental illness.
- Trauma or stress: Traumatic life events in adulthood or ongoing stress such as work problems or a breakdown of relationships or financial stress can be a breeding ground for mental illness.
- Personal factors: Low self-esteem can increase depression or anxiety.
So you see, nothing is cut and dried with a mental illness, it’s a very complex condition that can affect anyone. It’s important that you educate yourself with the right materials and not just go with what you hear or see on social media. Speak to a professional if you feel you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental illness.
Help is never far away.
SADAG: 011 234 4837
Suicidal emergency contact number: 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline: 0800 456 789