Something for the brain…

Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. One in four people in the UK has experienced a mental health problem at some point in their lives that affects them, their relationships or their physical health.

The term ‘mental health problem’ is used to describe a whole range of difficulties, from everyday stresses and bereavement, phobias and anxiety disorders, to the more acute forms of depression, and illnesses such as schizophrenia. Psychiatrists sub-divide the different kinds of mental health disorders in several different ways.

Number one is Organic versus Functional where the problems are caused by an underlying brain malfunction. Number two is Neurosis versus Psychosis i.e. those that arise from severe forms of normal experience, as opposed to those arising from severe distortion in a person’s perception of reality. Number three is ICD-10 Classification i.e. a classification of disorders based on a list that groups them in related families, for example, ‘mood disorders’ – including depression and manic depression.   

Every year more than 250,000 people are admitted to psychiatric hospitals. Over 4,000 people, of those admitted, commit suicide. It’s important to distinguish between impulsive acts of self-harm and planned or organised attempts to end your own life. In most suicides, the person has taken steps to ensure they aren’t discovered until afterwards.

One of the most widespread mental illnesses is depression. One in 6 people in the UK will suffer from depression at some point in their life, and it is most common among people aged 25-44. 

The road to recovery when suffering from the likes of clinical-depression, socio-anxiety disorder and/or bi-polar disorder begins in accepting help and the desire to get better. There is no single cause for mental health problems; the reasons they develop are as complex and unique as the individual.

For example, women are more likely than men to have anxiety disorders and depression, whereas drug and alcohol addictions are more common in men. Men are also more likely to commit suicide than woman. Formal admissions of men in England rose from 8,673 per year in 1990 to 13,400 in 2003-2004, while the number of women admitted increased from 8,908 to 11,400.

‘Hidden’ or ‘covert’ depression is sometimes a factor behind problems that are sometimes thought of as being typically male – such as the misuse of drugs and alcohol. It can also be manifested in behaviours such as social withdrawal, unexplained physical symptoms and relationship problems. Men are often unwilling to admit to being depressed and it has been suggested that, for some men, ‘midlife crisis’ can be a euphemism for depression.

A person’s circumstances are also a factor. People with poor living conditions, those from ethnic minority groups, disabled people, homeless people and offenders. People with mental health problems are often discriminated against. This can lead to social problems such as homelessness, and may make the mental health problem worse.