Speaking from experience, mental illness is a bitch. All the way around. It can be horribly debilitating for the sufferer, and it’s no picnic for their support network either.
It’s Pretty Prevalent…
Mental Illness does not discriminate and has so many different causes, from trauma, to hereditary predisposition, to lifestyle factors, to substance abuse. The scary part is that it can pop up without warning in even the most seemingly happy and stable people.
…But There’s Still Stigma
Another layer of anguish around seeking and receiving help for mental health illness or concerns is the social stigma associated with it. The two types are public and self and both have distinctly negative repercussions.
There are differences between public stigma; the results of a naive public endorsing the stereotypes of mental illness and self-stigma; the consequences of people with mental illness applying stigma to themselves.
Public stigma can come from anyone; a roommate, friend, colleague, stranger and can stem from a lack of education around mental health. However self stigma is all personal; it can increase the mental anguish you’re already feeling. As everyone knows, your toughest critic is yourself.
Self-Diagnosis isn’t helpful…
The televised interview between esteemed rocker Daniel Johns and respected journalist Andrew Denton this past month raised a lot of questions about mental illness, and the dangers of self-diagnosis.
It also threw into sharp relief the importance of correct professional help and support. Detailing how a serious undiagnosed anxiety disorder spiraled into substance abuse, Johns explained that once he received a correct diagnosis, his mental health really improved.
“But I didn’t know what I had, so I didn’t know how to deal with it and the only thing that I found that worked was alcohol. So I was drinking alcohol to keep that at bay, but it didn’t… it didn’t work. And then I got diagnosed with this anxiety disorder… and… now I’m a perfect specimen.”
Find the whole interview on 7plus here.
…Unless it Starts the Conversation
Self diagnosis is not too bad, but only insofar as it can prompt sufferers to seek help, even if it starts as the wrong type of help. Today, reaching out for help isn’t always straightforward and with so much technology surrounding us, why should it be? Sometimes the ‘cloak of invisibility’ or anonymity on the internet can be the cover people need to make the first step. An undiagnosed or misdiagnosed condition on the other hand can make wellness so much harder to attain…
Incorrect Treatment/Diagnosis can be Detrimental…
A study early 2000’s found there can be detrimental ramifications of undiagnosed serious mental illness or SMI in that the treatment rarely matches the issue. During the study, less than 30% of SMI respondents sought treatment, of those, less than 40% received accurate assistance, and almost 60% dropped out of mental health care plans.
There are several ways someone might be misdiagnosed, from seeking help from an health professional who mistakes a set of symptoms from one disorder for another – for example, seeking help for depressive feelings might result in receiving medication to treat this, however the doctor mightn’t see the high periods and completely miss a bipolar disorder – or even self diagnosis from simply ‘googling it’.
…But Help is Available!
So we’ve established mental illness is not a fun time. But what happens next?
The absolutely brilliant news is that there are a truck load of websites, forums, programs, professionals, and methods available to help with mental health care. A very tidy report released by the Australian Government a little over a month ago can be found here and outlines the many different services available.
The First Step…
If you’ve ever felt constantly on-edge, so lethargic you couldn’t move, or like you’re trapped on a mental roller-coaster ride, it might be time to pop the hood [so to speak] and take a closer look at what’s going on inside.
Not sure what to lookout for? This super helpful symptom checker website can help you follow the breadcrumbs all the way back to the loaf.
Once you know what to look for, the Queensland Government has laid out various avenues of support and categories of information around mental illness all in one place. There’s no harm in taking a look around, you never know; there might be something there to help you, or even just equip you with more info.
PSA for Carers
Struggling with the mental health of a friend or family member can also be really difficult. From my own experience, it is incredibly hard to watch a loved one spiral, particularly if they are not receiving the right treatment. It’s important to remember that in order to care for someone else, you have to look after yourself too; check out this website for more info & support. What you do is truly amazing and society is all the better for your actions.
Please take care of yourselves everyone; there is only every one of you, & your are important!