Mental Illness, A Chronic Health Issue
Updated: May 21, 2022
Did you know that the month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Let's break the stigma and affirm that mental illness is part of everyday life. Mental Illness is a chronic disease. By definition, a chronic illness/disease is a long-lasting issue. Chronic diseases have episodes, with some more acute than others. In essence, just like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Mental Illness medically cannot be cured but instead managed.
Just as COPD is a disease of the lungs and affects the respiratory tract, Mental Illness is a disease of the mind and affects the path to functional processing of the human mind. Knowing the respiratory tract is the path through which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, the mind is the brainpower for every area of reason (work, family dynamics, marriage, etc.). So when the mind is affected, the ripple effect is very much crippling in every area of life (psychosocial existence).
Understanding this may explain why a 70-year-old woman married for over 30 years will wake up one morning and have an episode so severe that they consider divorce. It could also explain why a 22-year-old first-year law student (who was the valedictorian from college) would commit suicide right after a campus-wide scholastic recognition. The episodes have such significant impacts and often seem terminal to individuals suffering that they find the nearest exit from their current state. For some, that exit is focused on the most recent issue on their mind; for others, “everything” seems to be wrong, hence suicide.
Where then did the issue begin? Research shows that many mental health issues, just like COPD, have genetic factors involved and, in some cases, early life exposures. COPD is quite common in adults who had asthma as a child. Mental Illness is also a common trend for adults who may have been abused as a child. Knowledge of the root cause helps manage the episode that presents today.
So when someone you know is having an episode, and they react to the situation at hand, be conscious that the root cause most likely is unrelated. Be patient. Guide them, if possible, to a path of understanding the cause, if you’re knowledgeable of it. And love the person you know them to be, independent of the Illness.