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Common Questions about Mental Health

How can I recognize a mental health problem?

Mental health is complicated because it’s about how we think, feel and act, and this is always changing. When our mental health is good, we enjoy being around other people and we feel able to take on challenges and new experiences. But when our mental health is not good, we find it much harder to cope. We develop a mental health problem when negative thoughts and feelings start to affect our daily life and stop us from doing the things we enjoy, or our ability to feel ok, this means we probably need some support with our mental health.

I think my friend is troubled and depressed. How can I talk to them about mental health and offer support without making them feel worse?

It is a very difficult question. First, let your friend know that you are there for them. Don’t press them to talk but let them know that they can and whatever they say to you will be confidential and that you won’t spread gossip. Try not to judge what they say to you, even if you do think they are being silly. Acknowledge their feelings and show you care; by saying ‘that sounds very difficult for you,’ ‘I can see that this (thing) upset you,’ or ‘you sound very sad right now.’

Ask them what they would find helpful and offer to do that with them (even if it’s something simple like watching a movie that you don’t like). Don’t tell them what to do, but offer suggestions and ideas such as ‘have you thought about telling a teacher?’ ‘did you know there is a toll-free advice line’. Keep checking in – even if your friend is not very responsive, don’t get angry, be patient and just let them know you are still their waiting for them.Finally, supporting someone can be very hard. If you are worried at any point that the friend will harm themselves, and they will not get help for how they feel, or you don’t feel able to cope anymore, try and get the advice of a trusted adult or professional.

Somebody in my family has a mental illness. What are the chances that I will go through that as well?

Some studies have shown that if a family member has certain types of mental illness then there is an increased chance that others in the family will also experience mental illness. We do not fully understand what causes this. No one can say whether someone will or will not develop a mental illness. Even if you are at greater risk, practicing the self-care tips will help in strengthen your mental health and wellbeing.

How do I know when to get help with my mental health?

Just like each of us gets sick from time to time, many of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives. Here are some signs to look out for which would indicate that you may need some additional support:

If you experience any of these thoughts, feelings or behaviours, it is important to seek help. This does not mean that you must have a mental illness, but some support may help you.

Do people with mental illness recover completely from it?

Yes. Most people who experience a mental illness will recover and for some they will only have a single experience. A few people do remain vulnerable to develop the illness again later on. Only a very small number of people live with the mental illness for the rest of their lives and even then, with the right support, they can live a good life without any major challenges.

Is mental illness caused by spirit possession or a curse?

There is no evidence that having a mental health problem is caused by any spiritual, religious or witchcraft practices. We know there are many reasons why people experience poor mental health or illness and these relate to factors such home life, support network, physical health and the resources available for coping with difficult times. Many people who are having difficulties are comforted by their existing religious practices but when someone is experiencing mental illness they will also need different types of supports.

Does exercising really help mental health?

People who exercise regularly often do so simply because it makes them feel good. Exercise can improve your mood, concentration, and alertness. It can even help you have a positive outlook on life.

Regular exercise can help you sleep better. A good sleep helps regulate mood. Exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how they feel about achieving their goals

I hear a lot about stigma. What is it, and how does it affect people with mental illness?

Stigma is an unfair negative attitude held by people or groups of people towards others because of a difference such as living with mental illness. It is often caused by people having lack of proper knowledge about the issue and sometimes fear associated with wrong or misinformation. This can lead to people with mental illness being treated differently, being seen as abnormal and worthless and being excluded from society. This can then lead to the person who has a mental illness feeling shame, sometimes making their mental illness worse. It can prevent people with mental illness from getting help, adapting to society, and leading happy lives.

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