"Mentally ill people are dangerous." "Mentally ill people are absolutely crazy and psychotic, STAY AWAY!", "Mentally ill should be locked away." "Mentally ill people are always dependent on someone." We have often heard such statements or ones similar to these in movies, television shows, or books. The mass media is not to be blamed, for it mirrors the opinions and beliefs of the society. Many people feel that mental illness is like gold dust, it can only happen to very few people and it will never affect them. This belief has been proven to be inaccurate by various studies conducted on mental health. The World Health Organization reports that today, about 450 million people suffer from a mental or behavioural disorder.
The life of a person with mental illness is not just limited to psychological pain. Mental illness and medical illness are interrelated. For example, Somatoform disorders are those mental illnesses which are accompanied by physical pain, numbness and certain other physical symptoms of discomfort in the absence of any evidence of real physical ailment. Apart from this people find that their mental illnesses increase their susceptibility of developing poor physical health, it impacts their cognitive functioning of the body and decreases energy levels. Consequently, there are emotional problems that crop up, such inability to regulate emotions, heightened anger and frustration and low self-esteem.
The society as a whole is affected by mental health problems; it is not limited to the people facing them. As Aristotle said that man is a social animal, he is compelled to live in the society for the fulfillment of his biological and psychological needs. The needs of psychological safety, social recognition, love, and self- actualization are accomplished in the course of living in society, and he depends on the other members of society for this. Thus, something that would bother one man will also bother the other men who are associated with and related to him/her. Persons who suffer from mental illness are often the last ones to realise that there is something which is not right and something which is definitely wrong. The sad reality is that a person suffering from mental illness is not everyone’s problem. Not only is this person a danger to himself or herself, but is often a danger to society at large. There is not only an uncomfortable silence that surrounds diseases of the mind of the ones but also the ones who suffer with them. The mental illness of individual pain his/her family, teachers, friends, and people at his/her work place.
MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS FAMILY
For persons with mental disorders, it is the family and the family members who play the role of primary caregivers. Hence, awareness about mental health among the family members becomes extremely crucial. Parents are the ones who seek help for their child regardless of their age. The anguish of having a child with mental illness is unthinkable. One can only imagine what they go through when they see other kids moving from their life as a student, to an earning member of a family and looking after them, while their own child barely does one-tenth of it. The person suffering from mental illness often feels that he or she is being misunderstood by the family members; but this misunderstanding is, however, mutual. The sufferer fails to realise that they too are unable to understand their family member. This makes relations bitter leading to strings of discord and disharmony being woven among the family members, often resulting in the loss of meaning of relations and consequently isolation.
The impact of mental illness is often so everlasting, that certain family members become pessimistic about the future. The presence of stigmas regarding mental illness is so deeply ingrained in society that family members gradually start avoiding interactions with the other members of society. In certain communities family members deny accepting that a member is plagued by such a condition, adding to the plight of the sufferer. All in all, it leads to withdrawing from activities of the congregation, cultural group or community activities. For many people, dealing with a mentally ill patient is traumatic and back-breaking.
Families start developing anger, frustration and a lot of negativity is generated by the family members. This stems from the routine and the family life becoming unpredictable. It is a draining experience as the working members of the family have to fulfill the demands with the mentally ill as well as with the usual problems of everyday life. They feel trapped and discouraged when they meet failure after trying different approaches to cure their dear one. Since illness impairs the individual’s ability to perform and function properly, the grief inflicted upon the family members difficult to overcome with. A life altering illness substantially diminishes the potentials, talents, and skills of a person and families struggle to come to terms with a less promising future.
MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS EDUCATION
Teachers and educators are the next group of people but are usually the first ones to notice mental health problems among the children. Teaching such children can prove to be the best job in the world only if the teacher has the flair to teach and the courage to accept that it is not the same like other teaching jobs. They have to the mammoth task of providing the child with the basic education of his or her intellectual level while handling all the difficulties that the students face and build a relationship of trust.
Such students have a shorter concentration span in comparison to the ones who do not face any mental illness. Hence, the tasks that are given to them and the lessons taught to them have to be tailor-made according to their abilities. Mental illness impairs a student's ability to learn. Adolescents whose mental illness is not treated rapidly and aggressively tend to fall further and further behind in school. The teachers are only allowed to empathise with these students and not sympathise with them, for the latter leads to transference. They have to bear the stress on themselves for making these students work without inflicting upon them the actual burden of the task.
Students with mental illness face emotional, behavioural and adjustment problems. They often express their frustration and built in anger by throwing things or by harming their classmates or even themselves. The teacher must know what action to take to handle the situation. The teacher must know where physical intervention is necessary and where it is not. They have to be caring and empathetic. The student may love and hate the teacher, but the teacher must not forget that he/she is a teacher first.
MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS WORK
Mental illness also affects the individual’s work atmosphere. Due to the mental illness, the individual does not perform to his maximum level of productivity. He is unable to meet the expectations of the seniors and due to his sensitive condition, his seniors are at a loss, for they are stuck between behaving in a professional manner at the same time they have to avoid reacting in any way that will cause more stress to the individual. Prior to the diagnosis of an individual’s mental illness he used to lead from the front, he used to motivate his subordinates, make them optimally productive and guide them. However, now he is unable to inspire and influence them. The subordinates need to work more and be sympathetic towards their team leader. The team members now rely on themselves for their own motivation and deal with the leader’s mood swings and other effects of the mental illness. Further, the firm cannot fire him on humanitarian grounds.
MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS FRIENDSHIPS
A friendship forms one of the foundations of our ability to cope with the problems that life throws at us. Relationships become challenging when a friend has a mental illness. We may talk to friends in confidence about things we wouldn't discuss with our families. Due to the stigma attached to mental illness in the society, people who face it often shut themselves from the rest of the world and have only the slightest interactions with other people, for they fear being judged and unaccepted in the society. Friendships seem to fade away as the friends who understand this pain are extremely few. Often while supporting a friend through their mental illness, the individual experiences a burn out. It gets difficult to balance the friendship.
Thus we see that mental illness is not a one man’s struggle. We, as members of the society, are also affected by it. Hence, as much as it is important for the mentally ill to seek professional help, it is also crucial for the other people related to them to be aware of their boundaries and help them without putting their own health in danger.