mental health first aid

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Mental Health First Aid

Why Mental Health First Aid or first aid for mental illness?

Emotional and mental difficulties are widespread in the population, and they occur just as frequently as physical disorders. Countless stressors and hassles, such as family conflicts, break-ups between lovers, and problems in the workplace, often cause emotional turbulence.

Of course, some individuals handle their emotional difficulties better than others. Individuals who hardly cope experience persistent and worsening symptoms.

Mental Illness and Stigma

 

Despite advances in psychiatric research and treatment, mental illness is often misunderstood. Public misconception about mental illness has created unfortunate and inaccurate labels. In fact, many individuals have remarked that their relatives, who sometimes shame and discredit them, poorly understand their emotional difficulties.

 

They have been labeled “lazy” and “weakling,” or they have been told to “smarten up,” “grow up,” and “go to work.” Accused of having “weak nerves,” of not “pushing hard enough” and of not being “strong enough” to face life’s challenges, they interpret the insults in terms of personal weakness.

 

Manifestations of mental illness

 

Unlike physical disorders which have to do with physical changes (such as fever, headache, and nausea), emotional illness is much broader in scope and affects almost all areas of the person’s life. It generally involves a combination of emotional, physical, personality, cognitive, and behavioral changes.

 

Clinical depression is a good example of a mental illness that presents with these changes: emotional changes include tearfulness, irritability, loss of interest, and feelings of sadness; physical changes include inability to eat, lack of energy, weight loss or gain, lack of sexual drive, and impaired sleep; personality changes are manifested through such behavior as easily getting upset or making unusual business decisions; cognitive changes include lack of concentration and memory lapses; and behavioral changes are shown by agitation and violent tendencies.

 

The majority, if not all, of individuals suffering from mental illness must endure and cope with these modes of change.

 

Mental Illness- A Medical Disorder

 

Mental illness, like physical illness, is a medical disorder. Psychiatric research in the past decades has shown its underlying physical mechanisms. In fact, mental disorders have manifested “chemical imbalance” or neurochemical brain changes. Likewise, abnormality in brain structure is also found in some individuals, such as the changes observed in schizophrenic patients.

 

Moreover, heredity is prominent in the etiology of the majority of mental illnesses. For example, a significant percentage of manic-depressive patients’ first-degree relatives are predisposed to mood disorder. Lastly, changes in hormonal and endocrine functions, as well as in other brain and physical mechanisms, are also involved in the cause of mental illness.

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