World Mental Health Day: How to manage your mental illness

World Mental Health Day: How to manage your mental illness

“The stigma attached to mental health disorders needs to be eliminated – the way to achieve that is through knowledge and education,” says Krsangi Radhe, a Neuro-linguistic programming practitioner.

World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day/ iStock

World Mental Health Day is celebrated annually on 10 October. It is aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and advocating against social stigmas.

A recent survey conducted by Sunday Times found that a third of South African people suffer from mental illness.

Krsangi Radhe, a Neuro-linguistic programming practitioner based in Durban, sheds light on mental health issues. 

She says society’s conception of mental illness needs to change.

“Society needs to become more accepting and embracing without judgement. The stigma attached to mental health disorders needs to be eliminated – the way to achieve that is through knowledge and education. Talking about mental disorders without mocking or making jokes about mental illness is an important aspect of embracing those who are going through a difficult time with a mental disorder,” says Radhe.

She says mental illness is just like any other illness that affects the body.

“Viewing mental illness as a health issue that affects the brain – just as other health issues that affect other parts of the body, is vital. How is it that society is ready to isolate or oftentimes disown a person with a mental illness, yet offer support and compassion to those with other physical illness? This mindset needs to change. With proper support and love – a circle of understanding family and friends, the person who is battling with a mental illness will not feel like an outcast."

Radhe adds that mental illness, like many other conditions, can be treated and “with the proper help and support, a person with a mental the disorder can lead a healthy and normal life.”

READ: Suicide survivor on a mission to end suicides

Common symptoms of mental illness

“There are several markers that point to mental health concerns. Often those closest to the person who is in distress will notice these signs first. These signs may include but certainly not restricted to:

- Change of a person’s behaviour. The common sign is withdrawal from relationships. Pulling away from family and friends and perhaps even isolating oneself from their circle.

- Mood swings – experiences high (happy) and low (sad) times erratically. There can be a few highs and lows within a day – with the extreme of each end.

- Feeling of confusion. Inability to hold a conversation and instability in performance at work or at school.

- Sleep patterns are disturbed. Often the person experiences excessive lethargy or tiredness but cannot get a good night’s rest.

- Alcohol or drug abuse.  

How can a person suffering from a mental disorder get help? 

-  Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Think about someone who will listen without judgement. 

- Take the bold step to reach out – if you are not comfortable talking to someone in your close circle, then reach out to a medical professional.

- Do not depend on Google! As much as information is easily accessible – you should not self-medicate or depend solely on advice from the internet. Reach out to support groups within the community or a local clinic.

- Be sure that help is available – do not be afraid to take that first step to seek help. 

In which ways can a person take better care of his or her mental health?

- Positive self-talk is incredibly important. What we feed our mind is equally important to what we feed our body. Be your own cheerleader and keep your circle to those who bring positivity into your life.

- Self-love is important. This is an aspect that we usually ignore – self-respect and time for self-care is an important part of taking care of mental health.

- Striving for balance. Although you may be goal-orientated, be sure to fuel all aspects of your life, or else you will suffer from burn-out and your relationships will suffer too.

- Strive to eat well and rest well. 

- Practice gratitude for simple blessings – stop complaining!

- Look at personal transformation as the key to self-growth. 

- Exercise helps reduce stress levels. Include time for exercise in your schedule – as this will help gain a clearer mental perspective. This can also boost your mood and build resilience.

- Meditation is also super useful and can be used as a way of connecting to your inner purpose and making life more meaningful.

- Do something to spark joy in the lives of others, in that way you too will feel fulfilled. 

The focus for this year's World Mental Health Day is on suicide prevention. According to the World Health Organisation, every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. Also, states that almost 3,000 people commit suicide daily. How can a person feeling suicidal get help?

- Do not keep those suicidal thoughts to yourself. Talk to someone – help is at hand. Reach out to that trusted friend.

- Know that you will not be judged – rather focus on moving past those thoughts. 

- Understand that there is no problem too big that cannot be solved with the help of those who love you. 

- Avoid alcohol or drugs.

- Promise yourself not to take action – keep calm and remember that the situation will improve by getting proper help.

- Call the 24-hour SADAG helpline on 080 056 756. 

READ: World Suicide Prevention Day 2019: Causes and prevention of suicide

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