Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 2nd 2014 Contents When a mental health patient is
already battling inner frustrations
and the attending demons, disap-
pointments, crises, and the like, a
lack of compassion and consider-
ation from others are damaging
So, it was refreshing recently to
have a friend reach out and ask how
she should approach another friend
who had been reacting character-
istically--shutting out everyone--
having been diagnosed with a men-
First, I said to her that some dis-
orders are more severe than others
but none should feel like a life/death
sentence for patient or family.
That mental disorders cause mild to severe dis-
turbances in thought and/or behaviour, and can
result in an inability to cope with simple everyday
And, that disorders which are considered severe
and are most common are (clinical) depression,
anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders,
dementia, and panic.
"Symptoms of these disorders are either neurotic
or psychotic symptoms. Neurotic covers those
symptoms, which can be regarded as severe forms
of normal emotional experiences (changes in mood,
personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal)
such as depression, anxiety, or panic.
"Less common are psychotic symptoms, which
interfere with a person s perception of reality, and
may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing,
smelling, or feeling things that no one else can,"
Most disorders are treatable and many patients
have been known to experience full recovery with
correct and timely intervention.
We, the diagnosed ones, understand that to have
others treat on a regular basis with such peculiar
issues can be "physically and emotionally trying,
and can make (family and relatives) feel vulnerable
to the opinions and judgments of others."
So, inspired by my friend s openness to learn, I
now offer my top support measures for
family/friends of the mentally ill to consider:
1. Educate yourself about the illness. "Educating
yourself is really the foundation of support. Not
knowing how the illness functions can create mis-
The mentally ill cannot just snap out of "it", you d
know that if you educate yourself. So to say to
someone with an "altered mental state" that you
hope their illness could be "flagged less" betrays
ignorance and a lack of compassion for how the
person s mind is engaged in the struggle.
Education facilitates friend s/family s acceptance
that aggressive or weird behaviours are a manifes-
tation of the illness, not willful, purposeful actions
2. Stop behaving as if it cannot happen to you.
3. Treat your friend/relative with respect regardless
of how symptomatic they appear or may become.
This may require a selflessness that does not per-
sonalise every infraction.
4. Recognise and acknowledge your loved one s
courage. It takes courage to battle the devastating
symptoms every day and to seek and stay in recov-
ery. "In our society, we view people with a physical
illness, such as cancer or diabetes, as courageous,
but we don t extend the same perspective to people
with mental illness," (psychcentral.com).
If you re a friend or relative to someone who may
have a mental disorder of any degree, it s important
to remember there is hope and help, and many
resources on the Internet are available for learning
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
Mental disorders are very com-
mon. In fact, one in every four
persons has one of over 200 clas-
sified mental health issues, so, on
typically, there s at least one per-
son in an average household who
may have a disorder.
That s no reason to panic, to start
self-diagnosing or labelling all
behaviours around you, but it s
every reason to be considerate about
the health of those in your envi-
It s important to reiterate these
facts because ample repetition may
reach more people. More people
engaged could well mean more peo-
ple offering care and compassion for those expe-
riencing mental health challenges.
The pervasive ignorance of people we wish would
be more sensitive to our cause, at times, riddles us
with deeper affliction than what the illness presents.
Very often this unawareness exists because people
are so engrossed in their own life struggles that it s
easier to overlook the challenged person rather than
allocate time to assisting them in one way or the
Until we are faced with an actual situation or
issue, most of us would go about our business with
nary a care for those challenged by mental ill health.
A most difficult thing I ve experienced is to be
ill and to not be able to find one person who appears
to care for your welfare during that time. It s even
worse when the illness is that of a mind which
automatically thinks the worst of every situation,
and then to be placed in such periods of neglect.
Conversely, a person with a mental disorder has
difficulty in asking for help because that requires
reaching out from a syndrome that continuously
reaches in, turns inside, and sometimes even turns
And still, the stigma of being diagnosed or living
with a mental disorder sometimes causes a person
to shut down or shut out people who may be willing
Support the mentally ill
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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