Mental illness is a sensitive topic people hate to discuss and ironically, it the most important. In fact, there is no universally accepted definition for mental illness. The American DSM (DIAGNOSTIC And STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDER) gives some sort of definition. The rule is this, if one is experiencing certain changes in personality, behavior, thought pattern, relationships etc. that are proving detrimental to his/her normal way of life and/or others’ too, they could be having some mental illness.

In most under-developed countries, when you hear the word “MENTAL ILLNESS”, most people see it as one being crazy. Mental illness has a lot to do more than just the way people see it. It has a lot to do with response flexibility that is; being able to make intentional decisions about how to engage challenging situations or emotions. It is sad when people do not see mental health as important as physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health is not a subjective thing that can be easily measured nor can it be accurately shared.

Mental illness is a term used to describe abnormal behavior. It can only be determined by comparing an individual’s behavior to average behavior in similar appearing circumstances. Unlike other ailments and diseases, it has no sign or suggestion. Nobody can visibly identify someone with a mental illness. It affects how we think, feel, and act.
There are many conditions which come under the umbrella term, “mental illness”, and they would all have different early signs. When you engage in behaviors that other people don’t understand or think are strange, it is a sign of mental illness. If you do enough strange things that other people think are weird or inexplicable, they will want you to be diagnosed and they will want you to change and behave more like other people usually behave.

Most people who are diagnosed don’t have much illness. I believe they are mostly trapped in situations where they have no way out, without hurting someone they love. So they take it out on themselves. It is also important to note that many mental health disorders share common symptoms.

However, most mental illnesses can be treated, or at least managed. Mental health is generally not seen as something important as compared to physical health. The signs and symptoms provided cannot be objectively measured as easily as a physical condition. It is the hardest to understand and the most difficult to work on. The signs of mental illness are dependent on the illness. Early signs include (but are not limited to) feelings of sadness, hopelessness, unreality, lethargy or sometimes extreme tiredness, anxiety, feelings of wanting to hide away, panic attacks, inability to cope with things, even quite minor things and how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
You know that feeling where your thoughts are scary and you feel no one have same thought or feelings.

While each disorder has its own signs and symptoms here are some warning signs that you should be aware of and that could point to an underlying problem. Below are some cues to look for in others;

  • Excessive worrying or fear.
  • Extreme feelings of sadness or an extended period of feeling low.
  • Confusion, problems concentrating and/or learning
  • Difficulties at work.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Increased or reduced appetite.
  • Change in mood and affect,
  • A change in sleeping patterns; insomnia, low energy levels or always feeling tired
  • Passive suicidal ideas.

To mention a few;

It’s worth keeping in mind that most people experience difficulties in one or more of the listened signs above at some stage in their lives. However, if the above symptoms continue for more than two weeks and the person experiences several of the above symptoms at the same time, then they are likely to be suffering from a mental health condition. Bear in mind that, any of the above can happen in an individual without a current mental issue. Any of the above will probably happen to all of us over time. So, not everything would be a mental illness; we should take care not to pathologize life itself. What defines a mental illness is usually how severely it impacts one’s quality of life, how long this has been an issue, how often this occurs/recurs etc. In any case, it’s important to realize that we all struggle through life, some people more than others. People can, and do, successfully overcome mental illness.

However, a fact that is often ignored is that improved mental health is arguably the key to LONG TERM success and not just material success, but success in all spheres of life. I also think mental health requires the ability to relate safely and effectively with others. That doesn’t mean I’m responsible for “making” others treat me in safe and non-violent ways; it does mean that I’m responsible for treating others in safe and non-violent ways. It also means that I am able to tune into, and trust, my emotional and embodied responses to people. It means I can understand and voice the boundaries that help me to feel safe, and respect those from others. And it means that I’m able to maintain awareness of, and access to, the people and resources that can help me stay safe.
There are several kinds of mental illnesses but the most common are:

  • Depression. A state of low mood and aversion to activity, can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, tendencies, feelings, and sense of well-being.
    Bipolar disorder. Is a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood.
  • Schizophrenia Is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal behavior, strange speech and a decreased ability to understand reality.
  • Dementia Is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It can often be linked to a disease or damage done to the brain.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety related symptoms covers most human thought and behavior at the moment due to an evolutionary glitch any thought and behavior that is not logical/positive is a symptom of mental illness, the problem is that the anxiety itself blocks recognition of the symptoms and an ability to tell what is logical and positive.
  • Autism is when someone is unable to express emotion to the point where they find it difficult to function in society. Without personal care and appearance they will drop in many instances such as depression and schizophrenia, also appearance may change to more exuberant than normal or unusual in mania and acute psychosis.

What is the hardest thing of having mental illness?

The hardest thing of having a mental illness is; trying to prove yourself to the people who chooses to not believe you, they still see you as a lazy piece of shit no matter how much proof you have, healthy things becomes meaningless, drama for your is better. I know a lot of this seems over the top but remember, mental illness is not created in a vacuum most of the time, quite often it is created by people and events around us.

One of the things I’ve found the most frustrating, disconcerting and truly heartbreaking is the consistent discovery that people, more often than not, really don’t understand. They don’t understand the situation, struggle, symptoms, dis-empowerment, fatigue, pain, suffocating sadness, anger, intent, and most importantly, the continual loneliness. It’s difficult coping with your mental health challenge and on the other hand, you have people around who wants you to prove yourself by all means just because they feel you are faking it.

Somewhere inside, you lose yourself. You can recall some images of what you thought you were; besides actually suffering the illness from all the physical, mental and emotional symptoms to feeling suicidal and attempting it, to knowing life is literally passing you by and that you will never get to re-live these years. I’d say dealing with people who think you’re faking it and people who want to know why you can’t just take some medication and be ok. is the hardest part of having mental illness.

Why Do People Often Ignore The Mental Health Challenges?

People often think that it’s best to avoid mentally ill people, because they are aggressive and dangerous people. Believe it or not, the main reason why people often ignore their mental health challenge is STIGMATIZING. The stigma surrounding mental illness is extremely challenging to deal with or prevent. The major reason for this is that it is instinctual. Human beings have evolved to use subconscious algorithms to decide who is safe to cooperate with and who isn’t. We usually make these decisions very quickly, way before we have time to know a person and understand much about them. Certainly, before we know anything about their history or personality.


The way to end the stigma of psychiatric illnesses is to provide the public with more information. Stigmatizing people is very easy from a distance. If you do not know the person, if you do not have any experience with the person, if you have never had extensive talks with the person, you can easily stigmatize the person. The general public need to be educated about mental illness, and try to urge them to be more tolerant with such people by letting them know that there are more deviants than they know, because they are everywhere, but are trying to pass for normal. They interact with us a lot more than we think they do. And it doesn’t harm us, except in very rare cases.
I understand people will judge you when you open you open up about your mental illness to others; they will question your ability to fit neatly into a category that they’ve never experienced firsthand.

Another reason is that, for most people is;

It is the most obscure and easily ignored of all the kinds of health challenges… For instance, People with cancer or diabetes don’t have to explain themselves or their illnesses to anyone but when it comes to depression, suddenly you have to prove yourself in the court of public opinion that you aren’t really sick until your friends and family allow you be. Even if you’re being treated by a real psychiatrist who prescribes you real medication and writes you real pieces of paper with real writing on it that has a real diagnosis. FOR REAL. None of it matters.

When you don’t have mental health challenges, it might change your perspective on what mental illness is. At the moment, there is no cure for mental illness but there are lots of treatments that can make it manageable: Some of the known methods used in treating mental illness are:

  • Medication: This works on our brain cells. They increase activities in certain areas of the brain and decrease activities in others. The medication helps with the production of certain chemical in our brain to pass signals between the brain cells and they require a lot of chemical (space) between them to enable them pass signal. When a person is depressed, it means the person lack a lot of such chemical. Although chemical factors play a huge part in mental disorder, environmental factor can also affect a person’s brain function, such as traumatic event, (you witnessing the death of a loved one) stress, lack of sleep and substance abuse.
  • Therapy: This is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. A psychologist provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental.

Having known all these, how then can one fight this? The first step to beating mental illness

  • Acknowledging your mental health disorder. When you acknowledge the fact that you are ill and need help that is the first step to healing.
  • Change the meaning of what you are going through. When you change the meaning of something, you automatically change your feelings.

For instance;
I lost my childhood friend three years ago to the cold hand of death, and whenever the thought of the events surrounding her death comes to my mind, I am always frightened. Then I lost a close friend during my National Youth Service Scheme that was when I believed truly there is something called death.

Don’t get me wrong, I know and I have seen people die but I have never lost someone so close so I never really felt the pain people go through

Before those occurrences, I used to be surprised and wonder why people cried in the event of the death of a loved one. It never occurred to me until I lost these people dear to me. Thoughts of it frightened me. Then I said to myself, there must be a way of fighting these thoughts. One day I came up with a plan, I stopped imagining them as being dead and I start seeing it as though they traveled to another country (You know when your love one traveled for years how you get used to their absence) that was what I did and it really helped me.

Changing the meaning of something will make you change your feelings toward that something and that’s the first step to your healing process. (When you can imagine what your future could be like when this whole event is over, that’s another big step.) People will always tell you to be strong, talk to someone, you can fight this; but I want you to listen to this, once you can change the meaning of what you are going through, that is when your healing starts. Are you depressed? see it as strength and not as a weakness. Whatever you are going through is nothing negative and it sure does not mean you are weak. It can mean whatever you imagine it to be. It’s also the one that gives the least short-term gains. There are no immediate materialistic benefits from improving mental illness. As most humans consider outward gain as a measure for success, that leaves mental health quite redundant in the eyes of most people. Finally;

The yardstick is, the extent and degree of change one experiences vis a vis the former self and what the others observe as change. The good news is this, Individuals with mental illness issues can get better and several recover completely. You or someone you know may have been diagnosed with a mental health challenge. While currently there are no known cures for most mental illness, the good news is this “RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE”. If you are worried about yourself, you need to seek an outside professional opinion.


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Written by: Juliana Jonathan

image: photostock


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I’m Julia Jonathan, I write on relationships, communication and lifestyle advice. I believe there’s always room to improve no matter how incredible you think you are. If you think so too, follow me to see more inspirational stories and articles

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