In our personal and professional lives, we encounter people that seem to think in ways we cannot understand. Are these differences just part of life? Or is there is something deeper going on?
In essence: what does it mean to have a mental illness? This is a great question, because mental health is a highly stigmatized field, and often misconceptions are drawn; especially by filmmakers in movies that attempt to depict those suffering from any number of diagnoses. In order to define mental illness with clarity and not use a textbook method, it’s important to note that at various times we all experience symptoms that are consistent with mental health disorders. The key is not to self-diagnose or be too concerned with the diagnosis itself. Instead, lean into the understanding that you are not whichever symptom or diagnosis you are labeled.
Mental illnesses are psychological conditions that cause dysfunctions in the areas of thinking, emotions, mood and daily life. When experiencing a mental illness, it is difficult to have access to healthy ways of coping or making rational decisions. Common mental illnesses are depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and social anxiety disorders. More severe diagnoses are Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, bipolar disorders, schizophrenias and personality disorders.
Diagnosis and Recovery
It can feel scary to be diagnosed with a mental illness, as it can with any medical condition. However, that scary feeling tends to dissipate after you have been properly educated on the diagnosis given. Typically, the first thought for clients is whether or not the diagnosis will be a lifelong issue or if there is a quick way to rid yourself of the symptoms.
The answer is that it depends. In large part, it is contingent upon on a number of factors: age, pervasiveness, diagnosis, client’s level of insight, education, treatment, etc. Most clients diagnosed with mental illnesses are able to recover and live functional lives. For the most part, once treatment is sought and completed, there is a significant possibility of overcoming the symptoms without them ever returning.
For some, however, if the treatment approach is ineffective, if clients are afraid of change or if the motivation to change does not exist, symptoms tend to cycle and continue to cause significant problems for clients. The key is to do as much research as possible on the diagnosis given, seek treatment sooner rather than later, find a practitioner who specializes in that area of treatment and diagnosis, and then complete the treatment process.
The Prevalence of Mental Health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 43 million adults in America experience mental illness each year. That’s about 1 in 5 of all adult Americans. Furthermore, 1 in 25 adults are living with a serious mental illness. But more than half did not receive any treatment in the previous year.
In the workplace, mental health challenges can affect productivity, culture, safety, and employee satisfaction. As organizations become more and more aware of the importance of good mental health options, companies are offering health plans that include treatment options for talk therapy, and special services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). If you experience stress at work (even if it’s caused by factors outside of work), consider taking advantage of these programs.
Most of us would prefer that our coworkers stay home if they are ill and take care of themselves. But just as we want people who have the flu to seek care, we should also want for anyone who feels mentally unwell to get the assistance they need.
And even if a mental health condition is chronic and ongoing, it can often be managed. The only wrong answer is pretending you don’t have a problem! Help yourself and your colleagues by destigmatizing mental health. Talk to your doctor. Make an appointment with a therapist. Work healthy in body, mind, and spirit.