Mental health problems are conditions which affect a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviour and daily functioning. Mental wellbeing is a spectrum – where some conditions are mild and only affect certain areas of daily functioning while others are more severe and have a larger impact on an individual’s ability to go about their lives.

There is no one specific cause that can be attributed to a mental illness. Mental health problems can be attributed to a number of things such as genetic conditions, biology, environmental and psychosocial factors. It is important to pay attention to our mental wellbeing by establishing a self-care routine that works for us and by paying attention to the warning signs that might indicate poor mental health.

Trying to tell if you have a mental illness (or poor mental health) isn’t always easy. And there is no sure-shot test or diagnosis you can undertake that provides instant results. Mental health problems are complex and identifying them can take time. Which is why, visiting a professional is a much better route than trying to self-diagnose. Each mental health condition presents itself differently, but here are some common signs of mental illnesses in adults and adolescents:

  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Feeling extremely sad or low
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
  • Confused thinking or problems in concentrating and learning
  • Avoiding friends, outings and social activities
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach pain,ongoing aches, pains and vague discomfort)
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Overuse and dependency on substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (Delusions or hallucinations – these might be visual or auditory hallucinations in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Difficulty in understanding or relating with other people
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Excessive worrying, fear or anxiousness
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low on energy
  • Changes in sex drive

Yes, just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can be treated! They can be managed and, in many cases, even be cured.

However, the degree and rate of recovery varies based on a lot of factors like the individual, the kind of support they have, the intensity of their condition and the chosen treatment plan. It’s important that the person seeks a proper diagnosis and opts for treatments under professional guidance. A few treatment techniques include therapy and medication.

What can bring ease to the process is being in a safe and accepting environment alongside a loved one to support you through your journey towards mental wellbeing.

A chronic disorder is defined as one that “lasts a long time; is continuing; or marked by frequent recurrence.”

Mental illnesses can be chronic in nature, but this is not to say that through therapy or other relevant treatment, mental illnesses cannot be alleviated. If treated properly, the impact on one’s everyday life can be minimised.

Mental health professionals advocate practicing mindfulness as a way to treat people who are struggling with mental health as well as people who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing. It is a practice that trains an individual to be fully present in a moment and pay attention to oneself by leveraging techniques like meditation, breathing, and yoga.

So, practice mindfulness regularly and resolve stressful situations without getting overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings. On busy days, just take out some time for simple breathing exercises with calming music. You can also try out apps like Headspace and Calm to get started on your mindfulness journey.

A large section of the medical community believes that apart from mental exercise, physical exercise also has a positive effect on anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. In many cases, it is recommended that physical exercise is paired with therapy and prescription medication to further help people who are coping with mental illnesses.

Mental Health professionals vary based on their education, experience and expertise.

A good place to start can be looking over the below mentioned pan-India crowdsourced list of reliable and non-judgemental mental-health workers – some of whom provide sliding scale payments and concessions for treatment.

iCALL’s crowdsourced list of Mental Health Professionals We Can Trust (29th July 2020) – Google Drive

(*This is a third-party crowdsourced database and intended as a reference. Readers are advised to ascertain the veracity and qualifications of the mental healthcare professionals listed.)

You are not alone, and there are a lot of places you can find help.

KIRAN (1800-599-0019) is a Toll-Free Government Helpline that assists those with mental health issues. A few state government helpline numbers one can refer to are mentioned below:

  • Rajasthan – 18001800018
  • Madhya Pradesh – 0755-4092552
  • Tamil Nadu – 044-2642 5585
  • Sikkim – 18003453225 (Crisis helpline number)
  • Manipur – 8787457035, 9402751364 and 7629943596

You can also contact NGOs or Mental Health foundations in your area who might be able to assist you.

It is not easy to broach the subject with someone who might be suffering from a mental health problem. Mental health problems still have a lot of stigma attached to them, often resulting in reluctance to seek help. It is important to be calm, non-judgmental and focus on getting the concerned person the support they need.

You can also consult organisations like the Mithra Trust and Suicide Prevention Foundation of India that provide training programs to the individuals who are suffering from mental challenges and their caregivers as well.

Learn more about your mental well-being and how you can support yourself as well as someone else in need of assistance.

(#ReachOutReachWithin is an awareness initiative on mental health by IDFC FIRST Bank. The campaign aims to serve as a platform for information on mental health, written and curated by experts and brings to light the need to make mental healthcare inclusive. We are not providing therapy services. For any psychological support, please talk only to a qualified medical/mental healthcare professional.)