Understanding Mental Illness
For more information about mental illnesses and their treatments, visit CMHA National.
One of Canada’s most common illnesses is also the least understood. Everyone feels “blue” or sad from time to time. It’s a normal life experience. But when these emotions increase in intensity, persist for more than a few weeks, and start to interfere with a person’s life, it may signal depression. No amount of “cheering up” can make the depression go away; no amount of exercise, vitamins or vacation can make it disappear. That’s because depression is an illness, not a weakness.
In the “What is Psychosis?” section, we go into more detail about the causes and treatment of psychosis. In this section, we concentrate on the importance of identifying the early warning signs of a developing psychoses, getting an assessment and initiating treatment to reduce the impact of the episode.
Mood disorders are conditions that cause people to feel intense, prolonged emotions that negatively affect their mental well-being, physical health, relationships and behaviour. Almost 10 per cent of Canadians experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. While we can all have brief episodes of “highs” and “lows”, we generally do not experience extreme, extended swings in our emotions. An internal sense of control tends to moderate big mood swings and stabilize our ups and downs.
Eating disorders can be difficult to detect. The media glamourization of so-called ideal bodies, coupled with the view that dieting is a normal activity, can obscure a person’s eating problems. It can be difficult for a person with an eating disorder to admit they have a problem. Knowing how to support someone with an eating disorder is also a challenge. Treatment is available – it can be a long process, but an eating disorder can be overcome. If you think that you, or someone you know, has an eating disorder, it is important to learn the facts. Gaining an understanding of these conditions is the first step in the journey to wellness.
The death of someone close to us is one of life’s most stressful events. When the death is from suicide, family and friends must cope with sadness at the loss plus all their feelings of confusion and sometimes even anger. It takes time to heal and each of us responds differently. We may need help to cope with the changes in our lives. But in the end, coping effectively with bereavement is vital to our mental health.
Studies indicate that in any given year, one in every five Canadian adults under age 65 will have a mental health problem. Indirectly, all Canadians are affected by mental health issues because we know someone in the family, a friend or fellow worker who has an illness. In spite of these startling facts, most people know very little about mental illness aside from what the media tells us, or from word of mouth. Twenty per cent of the people in our communities experience mental illness at some time – isn’t it time we learned the truth about these conditions and separated fact from fiction?
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent intrusive ideas, thoughts, impulses or images (obsessions) which often result in performing compulsive rituals over and over again. Typical compulsions are washing, checking and arranging things, and counting. These actions give individuals with OCD only temporary relief from their anxiety. With early diagnosis and the right treatment, people can avoid the suffering that comes with OCD.
For every woman, having a baby is a challenging time, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next. These feelings are sometimes known as the “baby blues”, and often go away within 10 days of delivery. However, some women may experience a deep and ongoing depression which lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.