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Mental Issues are Treatable

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Dr Manu Tiwari

Do not hesitate in consulting a psychiatrist and once diagnosed ensure regular and proper treatment inclusive of medications and psychotherapy, says Dr Manu Tiwari, Consultant Psychiatrist Mental Health & Behavioural Science, Fortis Noida in conversation with Neha Thakur of ENN

Dr Manu Tiwari

Dr Manu Tiwari
Consultant Psychiatrist Mental Health & Behavioural
Science, Fortis Noida

What is the current scenario of mental disorders in India?

According to a community based study under the WHO Mental Health GAP Action Program, in India, the life time prence of mental disorders range from 12.2 percent to 48.6 percent. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare suggests that 6-7 percent of Indias population suffers from mental disorders with about one percent suffering from severe mental disorders.

An increase in population has definitely increased the number of mentally ill patients in India. Lack of manpower is a major threat in developing comprehensive psychiatric services in the community. In spite of best efforts, the ratio between psychiatrist and population is worsening day-by-day, reason being the rapid growth of the Indian population, while no development of manpower.

What are the main causes and types of mental illness?

The main causes of mental illness can be understood as being genetic wherein mental illness tends to run in families and hence a vulnerability to develop mental illness is inherited. Thus, if a person has a mental illness, their close relatives like children or siblings run a higher risk of developing mental illness.

Secondly, chemical imbalance wherein increase or decrease in the amount of neurotransmitters (chemicals secreted in the brain) exists can cause mental illness. Third factor being psychological that covers maladaptive behavioural, emotional and thought processes contributing to development of mental illness. In addition, interpersonal factors which showcase conflicting relationships, unhealthy communicational patterns, and relationship discords contribute to mental illness. Lastly, environmental factors involving daily stressors, significant negative life events, trauma, and loss can also contribute to mental illness.

Few of the common mental illnesses are; Anxiety disorders which includes Obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobia, and generalised anxiety disorders. Then there are mood disorders which includes heavy depression, Bipolar Disorders. Other illness includes Schizophrenia and delusional disorders. Thereafter are alcohol, and drug use and lastly personality disorders.

How serious is the problem of mental illness across the globe?

Mental and behavioural disorders account for 12 percent of the global burden of diseases. The WHO, in its World Health Report 2001 has drawn attention to the fact that of the nearly 45 crore estimated to be suffering from mental disorders globally, only a small minority are adequately cared for.

How common is the problem of mental illness among men and women?

Depression is rising with erratic lifestyles and rise of nuclear families and therefore it affects men and women equally. While mental illness affects both men and women equally, certain illnesses more prent in men for e.g. alcohol and drug use disorders while in women depression is the most common form of mental illness.

What are the main causes of Schizophrenia?

Basically there are three main causes of mental illness which includes genetic, biochemical and drug usage. While in genetic; mental illness tends to run in families and hence a vulnerability to develop mental illness is inherited. Thus, if a person has a mental illness, their close relatives (children, siblings) run a higher risk of developing mental illness. In Biochemical changes there is increase or decrease in the amount of neurotransmitters (existing chemicals in the brain) which can cause mental illness and last but not the least is regular consumption of alcohol or Drugs/Substance usage.

Mental and behavioural disorders account for 12 percent of the global burden of diseases. 6-7 percent of Indias population suffers from mental disorders

How soon can mental illness be diagnosed?

As soon as family members, caregivers, and peers, observe significant changes in a persons mood and behaviour, along with impairment in daily, social, and occupational functioning, they should seek immediate professional help. Diagnostic criteria vary across disorders. However whatever be the situation and severity dont ignore the behavioural changes and always consult a psychiatrist without fail.

What are the most common types of mental disorders that you come across every day?

There are around five types of common mental disorders that I come across every day, they include anxiety disorders which comprise of Obsessive- compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobia, and generalised anxiety disorder. Then mood disorders which consists of depression and bipolar disorders. Schizophrenia, delusion, alcohol, drug and personality disorders are also some of the disorders we come across.

How effective are the antidepressants for treating mental illness?

Anti-depressants restore neurotransmitter levels in the brain and are required in the treatment of depressive disorders. Medicines, when taken together with psychotherapy yield the best treatment response. They are medicines that regulate mood swings and maintain hormonal imbalance in the body.

Why is mental illness a stigma in society?

It is really sad that a problem as common as mental illness is avoided by all and nobody wants to talk about openly. Lack of awareness about the causes and outcome of mental illnesses results in labelling people who suffer and socially isolate and stigmatise them

Has the issue of mental illness increased over the years, if yes why so?

Yes, an increase in population has definitely increased the number of mentally ill patients in India. The prence of mental illness has been stable over the years. The risk factors at society level such as increased stress and problems in carrying out daily life activities decreased social support and interaction has resulted in more vulnerable population that is prone to depression.

Is there a permanent cure for all types of mental illness and how long does it take to get fully cured?

Yes, there is cure and hope for all affected with mental illness. Therefore, depending on the severity of the illness, medical treatment can take a few months or substantially longer in few cases, but no matter what the duration is mental illness is definitely curable.

What are the risk factors and preventive measures for mental illness?

Risk factors are genetic factors, alcohol and drug use over a prolonged period of time, poor coping abilities, poor social support, inability to concentrate, chronic stress, impaired relationships and poor physical health increase the risk of developing mental illness. Preventive measures – maintain a balanced lifestyle and seek help as soon as you see significant changes in personal, social and professional life.

Your message to all suffering from mental illness and families dealing with such patients.

Do not hesitate in seeking professional help, and once diagnosed ensure regular and proper treatment inclusive of medications (taken under expert psychiatric supervision) and psychotherapy. Both medical and psychotherapeutic treatments, when used together, ensure faster recovery and relapse prevention. Families and caregivers should seek psycho-education and supportive counselling along with illness management of their loved one. Caregivers stress and fatigue should also be not ignored.

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