Mental illness is a disease or condition of the brain that affects emotions, behaviour, personality, and mood, causing distress to the person going through this experience. Unlike physical illness, that can be diagnosed with blood tests and scans, diagnosing a mental illness takes close collaboration from the patients and the different medical professionals. Being honest with your doctors is extremely important for them to make the correct diagnosis. Not all mental illnesses are necessarily chronic, and we will refer to these briefly. But as with all chronic conditions, those suffering from a chronic mental health conditions must take care of themselves holistically – by adhering to their medication regimens, managing their diet, exercising regularly, working on interpersonal relationships, and monitoring their mental state to identify ‘triggers’. Triggers are events or activities that can cause a person to become distressed.
Many people in South Africa are familiar with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are common in our country, which has high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, crime, gender-based violence and substance abuse. However, these are not necessarily CHRONIC mental conditions and with the right support and help, they can be managed.