Mental illness-a global epidemic?

Right now the world is going through a pandemic that has and still is negatively affecting many people’s lives, but it is not the only global epidemic that is widely spread right now. More and more, I hear how people struggle with anxiety and depressive disorders. People are being suffocated by their own feelings and thoughts. So in this article, I would like to analyze how widespread mental illnesses actually are.

There are many types of mental illnesses, there are some that are well-known and are much more common, like anxiety, but there are also rare disorders, as, for example, trichotillomania. Even though mental illnesses are very widespread right now, they have been around for quite a while. It is truly interesting on the other hand how people that suffer from them are being treated differently nowadays. For example, in the early 19th century in America, people who had mental illnesses were placed in institutions very similar to jails, meaning that if a person was being put there, they couldn’t escape. Another scary thing is that these people were being treated with cruelty so, of course, the facilities were not effective in treating the patients.

In the early 1900s, experts began to dig deeper into what exactly is ‘madness’ and what are the causes that can make a human being fall into this dark hole. Sigmund Freud had a big influence in this field since he tried to explain unusual behaviours and to introduce new methods, which were highly criticized due to the fact that they were too much time-consuming. 

But getting back to modern times, we see major changes in how these types of conditions are treated nowadays. People today have the option to choose treatment through community resources,  and there has been a substantial change in laws, too. People can be placed inside therapeutic facilities for a short period of time until they regain control of how they feel.

A great thing is that people who have mental health problems are more open now to psychology, they do not feel intimidated by the fact that they need help, and, moreover, therapy is becoming increasingly normalized.

But now let’s get back to our main, most important topic: how widespread these issues are?

Scientifically speaking, it is not possible to compare it to a global epidemic, even though mental illnesses are on the rise, they are not growing exponentially. According to data from the IHME’s Global Burden of Disease, about 13% of the global population – some 971 million people – suffer from some kind of mental disorder. Dementia is the fastest-growing mental illness.

But for the last twenty years, there have been some changes. Surveys show that more and more young people are reporting mental health problems, the most common being mood disorders and, sadly, suicides. There is social media nowadays that induces the youth in this state of mind, and here I would like to touch the subject of cyber-bullying, which is highly linked to depression and self-harm. A research also stated that the more cyberbullying a teen experienced, the more severe his or her symptoms of depression are. Because we are talking about kids, here we need to understand that in many cases they suffer from it in silence, being afraid to open up to their parents or friends. This is why there should be a mandatory course in schools that would teach kids about what “safe internet use” is.

Another cause that can lead to mental health problems can be ‘unhealthy family functioning’. An example of this case could be a toxic environment with parents fighting every day, or even a divorce which can affect very badly a kid. The 30% of youngsters have a parent who is struggling with mental health issues themselves, in addition it is known that many disorders tend to run in the family, meaning that they might have genetic roots.

I was also wondering if there is a country where the population suffers the most from mental health problems. The data show that countries that have been at war naturally suffer from trauma-related mental illnesses. According to the World Health Organisation, the United States is one of the “most depressed countries” in the world. Also, the countries most affected by anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are India, China and the US again.

Now I would like to talk a bit about the most common mental health illnesses. One of them is anxiety, a constant feeling of tension and fear, particularly about the future. It can be experienced through our thoughts, but also with physical sensations.”Going out of the house is a challenge because I have a fear of panicking and feel that I’m being watched or judged. It’s just horrible. I want to get help but I’m afraid of being judged.” This fragment that I have found online best describes the state of mind of an anxious person. It impacts a person’s ability to live life to the fullest.

Another disorder is the bipolar disorder, which affects 50 million people worldwide. It makes a person have changes in mood and energy that make life harder; it means living life through ‘highs’ and ‘lows,’ not knowing exactly when the next episode is going to hit .

A problem that occurs is the medication. The prescription of drugs has raised in the past years, they are prescribed too much, sometimes even when the best option would be not using them. Also, another negative impact they might have are side effects, but also the struggles that a person is going through after they stop taking them. Of course, sometimes they can be an efficient short-term solution that can make a person feel better and take control over their life again.

Even if right now the world we live in is more open to subjects like mental health and this topic is not a taboo anymore, many people that suffer from mental illness still feel  discriminated. It is not an easy process to go through. If you have a friend or a member of your family that suffers from it, be gentle, try to understand that it is not them who chose it, and that they need time and understanding. There are many persons that are emotionally vulnerable, not everyone can open up and talk about their feelings because there are times when they cannot even describe what they really feel.

People tend to think that pain is real only when they see visible signs of it, but it is not true. The suffering that can be seen is no greater than the one that is inside of us.

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