Depression is the leading diagnosis for mental disturbances in people, according to secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T Dr Varma Deyalsingh. He said in T&T one in four people suffer from mental illness and though the highest preponderance of mental illness seems to occur around the age group 25-50, clinics are also now seeing a trend of much younger patients.
Depression, as described by www.psychiatry.org and endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, a major depressive disorder, is a prevailing and severe medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts. It evokes feelings of sadness, lack of enthusiasm for things and activities once fancied and a diversity of emotional and physical complications, depreciating one's quality of life and the ability to function in even the simplest everyday activities.
World Mental Health Day was observed globally on October 10 /*ith the theme of Suicide Prevention. A study done by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that every four seconds a person loses their life as a result of mental disturbance. The theme was chosen to garner the attention of governments worldwide, to the seriousness of mental health and its link to suicide, in the hope it will become a priority and national plan of action in every country.
What is a mental illness and how is it diagnosed?
Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions disorders that affect your mood, emotion, thinking and behaviour.
Who is susceptible?
Anyone who has triggers that overwhelms your coping skills.
Is mental illness biological or can it be acquired?
It can be genetic if relatives are prone to depression, bipolar and the trigger factors that overwhelm coping skills. It can manifest as well as a reaction to environmental stresses, biochemical imbalances seen in depression, where serotonin and other neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain are affected, or a combination of these.
What is a psychotic break? And are there other types of mental breakdowns. If so, what are they called?
A psychotic break is a state where one loses contact with reality. This can be characterised by hallucinations, disordered thinking or even delusions. Usually, the cause of a psychotic break could be an undiagnosed mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder or even major depression. Use of illegal substances can also cause episodes of psychosis. We have patients coming into our hospitals with drug-induced psychosis which often clears up after the drugs leave the system. Traumatic experiences can also trigger a psychotic episode and cause psychosis often in the form of flashbacks or hallucinations related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another cause can even be lack of sleep.
Does every mental disturbance require a stay at a mental institution or medication? Or are there natural ways to deal with it?
Sometimes just psychotherapy or talk therapy can deal with mild and moderate depression. Panic disorder and anxiety disorder can be helped with cognitive behaviour therapy. Some ways to deal with stress is just to remove yourself from the situation, for example like a toxic partner or a change in environment. Finding quiet spaces and places to regroup, like engaging in retreats or travels. Even just getting in a group to speak your problems and compare notes can also help. At present, there is art and music therapy at some of our clinics.
What are some life experiences or driving factors that can contribute to mental disturbances or breakdowns?
Childhood neglect, having no mother or caregiver for attachment bonding; sexual or physical abuse; poverty, poor parenting skills; adolescent-parent disagreements; relationship issues; job loss; work-related stress and alcohol and drug use.
How much of a concern is mental health in T&T? Can you give any statistical information on how many people are diagnosed with mental illness on an annual basis and what is the age range?
One in four people suffers from mental illness. The highest prevalence seems to be 25 to 50 years but younger and younger people are being diagnosed more now. Trinidad and Tobago is the third highest in the Caribbean for the prevalence of mental illness and the third highest in the English speaking Caribbean for suicide.
What is the most prevalent kind of mental illness among individuals assessed and screened?
Depression seems to be the most prevalent.
The many moods of depression:
° Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
° Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
° Changes in appetite—weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
° Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
° Loss of energy or increased fatigue
° Increase in purposeless physical activity (eg, hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
° Feeling worthless or guilty
° Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions