TW/CW: mention of suicide and mental health issues.
Disclaimer: admin is by no means a mental health professional but is currently undergoing a treatment with both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. The content of this article is going to be cited from reliable sources, which are mentioned at the end of the article.
Today, 10 September is #WorldSuicidePreventionDay. On this occasion, we’d like to share some vocabularies related to mental health conditions.
We realise this is a very serious and sensitive topic, but we feel that it is only right to help start the conversation, especially during a pandemic that increases our stress level by multiple times. If you find the topic to be overwhelming, kindly take some time for yourself and skip this article.
To start, what classifies as a mental health condition?
It is a condition that affects someone’s thinking, mood, behaviour, and even personality, to the point of limiting someone’s capability to function on a day-to-day basis.
How did mental health condition start to develop?
There are a variety of possible causes, namely genetics, past traumatic events, a stressful environment, unhealthy coping mechanisms, or biological causes.
What is trauma?
Trauma is our emotional response, or as I would like to call it, a ‘psychological scar,’ that is caused by terrible events. For example, abuse, accidents, war, or natural disasters.
What is coping mechanism?
Coping mechanism is a strategy that we use to face difficulties or resurfacing trauma. Generally, there are healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Example of healthy coping mechanism:
– talking to an old friend
– spending time with loved ones
– going to therapy
– having a me time
– taking a break/removing ourselves from the stressful environment
– eating healthy food
– finding a new hobby
Example of unhealthy coping mechanism:
– drinking or using mind-altering substances
– avoiding our issues/running from our problems
– reckless behaviour with no regards to the consequences
What is the most common mental health condition?
There are two that one would say on top of their head: anxiety and depression. These two conditions can also coexist with or be the symptoms of a deeper condition.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder) is excessive worry, nervousness, and fear that interferes with someone’s life. It is more complex than feeling nervous on our first day of work, for example.
Occasional worry, anxiety, or nervousness is a part of our survival instinct. They alert us to a possible threat or danger and they help us to be more aware or prepared. However, those who live with anxiety disorder are too focused on the things that worry them.
This can manifest in avoiding a situation that can trigger them, excessive pounding of the heart, excessive sweating, avoiding social interaction, not wanting to leave one’s home, not wanting to go to work or school or fulfill one’s responsibility.
Consequently, anxiety can alter our sleeping pattern (overthinking at night), causing sleeping problems like insomnia, resulting in excessive fatigue or frequent headache, and affecting our mood. At this stage, we definitely need to meet a mental health professional lest the symptoms worsen. A panic attack is a sure sign that one is dealing with anxiety issues.
What is depression?
Depression (clinical depression/major depressive disorder) is a persistently depressed mood, generally accompanied by a loss of interest to things we normally like and a intense feeling of emptiness, helplessness, or hopelessness.
One can have a natural sadness; one can also have a depression. While we can take time and do something interesting to deal with sadness, people who live with depression cannot find excitement or joy in anything.
Oftentimes, they don’t have enough energy to even get out of bed, which is why depression is often mistaken as ‘laziness.’ More symptoms include withdrawing from social interaction, isolating oneself, lack of focus, no sleep or excessive sleep, irritability (easily angry), and suicidal thoughts.
Can mental health conditions be cured?
Therapy with mental health professionals, be it individual or group therapy combined with medications can help someone ‘get back on their feet.’ Healthy lifestyle and supportive environment also play a big role.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Admin receives this question a lot when I open up to other people about my mental health treatment.
A psychiatrist is a mental health professional who handles the medical aspect of a mental health issue, which may include physical and psychological assessment, diagnosis, and prescribing medications.
A psychologist handles the mental and emotional state of an individual. In some cases, a psychologist may issue a referral for us to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. A psychologist is also commonly known as a therapist.
Can we avoid taking medications?
Most people are concerned of the idea of taking medications because there is a stigma that we can be ‘addicted’ or that the medications will have side effects or cause harm to our internal organs. This is not the case, as long as we take the medication by the prescribed dose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is something we need to discuss with the mental health professional who is taking care of us, so communicate it openly.
Can someone have suicide ideation/ suicidal thoughts even though they don’t have mental health conditions?
It is possible. Therefore, I would implore you to regularly check on your loved ones and open up about whatever difficulties you are facing. We are not alone.
Some signs if someone may be having suicidal thoughts:
– recently experiencing an emotional shock or facing a big life problem, for example, losing a loved one, having a life-threatening illness, or losing a job
– drastic drop of mood and appetite
– constant mention of death or wanting to end their life
– self-isolation and withdrawing from society
– feeling useless and perceiving oneself as a burden to their loved ones
– oversensitivity (easily sad, angry, or annoyed)
– seeing no hope for the future
– engaging in self-destructive behaviours
– attempting self-harm
This is not an exhaustive list, but it could provide a good timing to start a conversation with a person who might be having suicidal thoughts.
The last but not least, there are several resources that we can use to reach out for help if we feel something is wrong with our mental and emotional well-being. The 119 emergency line is Indonesian first responder for health-related emergency, including suicide attempt.
A general practitioner is someone we can have a preliminary discussion with regarding our mental health conditions. They can give a reference to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Lucky for us, we have the JKN (national health insurance), so make use of it.
Even though our conditions make us think so, remember that we are not alone.
#EngClass: Expressing Illness (2)
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#IOTW: Idioms Related to Medical and Health