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Mental Illness

Let’s demystify a few things

Mental Health and Mental Illness

What is mental health?

Mental health is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges that we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity.


What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour—or some combination thereof—associated with significant distress and impaired functioning. The symptoms of mental illness vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of mental illness, the individual, the family and the socioeconomic environment.

Major mental illnesses

Anxiety, at its base, is a biological process that warns and protects us from danger. It becomes a mental disorder when it is excessive, persistent and seriously impacts a person’s ability to function. Anxiety disorders are characterized by significant anxiety, worries or excessive fears that seriously affect a person’s daily life.

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by emotional instability. Individuals with this mental disorder have difficulties with impulse control and may show “black and white” thinking. They may also have issues with self-image, identity and difficulty maintaining relationships.

It is a person’s persistent and daily sadness that first allows us to recognize that someone is experiencing depression. The individual feels lonely and desperate, no longer has any interest in relatives, feels lonely and cries easily. The person may also experience significant loss of appetite, resulting in weight loss. Insomnia and general sluggishness in daily activities can also be signs of depression. Depression can make it hard to do simple things like waking up or eating. Symptoms can also include substance abuse, irritability and anger, or a sudden increase in productivity and hyperactivity.

Bipolar disorder – also known as manic-depressive illness, is a medical condition characterized by changes in the way the brain functions. These changes lead to mood disruptions characterized by phases of depression and phases of excitement (mania). The manic phase is recognizable with an extremely optimistic and hyperactive state of mind, or more irritability. These mood swings are so intense that the person does not even realize that he/she is not behaving normally. During the depression phase, the individual is paralyzed with suicidal thoughts. This disorder can lead to family, professional, financial and sometimes even legal problems. It can also lead to hospitalization.

Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized behaviour, confused thinking and speech, indolence, a desire for loneliness and a lack of expression or emotion are among the main symptoms of schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia do not necessarily have all of these symptoms. Many of them can behave ‘’normally’’ for long periods of time. Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic and highly complex mental disorder that affects thoughts, feelings and emotions, as well as the perceptions and behaviours of those living with it.

Psychosis is a temporary loss of contact with reality. It is characterized by confused speech and disorganized behaviour. It can appear gradually or spontaneously, and can be triggered by substance abuse (medication, drugs, alcohol, etc.). A psychotic episode can be caused by schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and drug addiction.

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