Mental illness encompasses a wide range of behavioural problems. It can be defined as “any Disorder which affects the mind or behaviour” (Thomas, 1981). Man’s earliest attempts to understand various types of abnormal behaviour were derived from from the supernatural and were couched with ignorance. Even the ancient Hindu and Chinese scriptures have shown mental disease as being due to the influence of evil supernatural power. As people become more literate, the concepts of medical science and psychology became better understood with a more objective attitude. Mental illness is pretty much widespread and affects almost 10 percent of our population.
Types of mental illness
On the basis of severity of the mental illness, it can be divided into two categories, namely, psychoses and neuroses. Psychoses are severe and pervasive behavioural problems. They involve severe functional impairment among the patients which include thought disorder such as speaking and thinking illogically, hallucinations and delusions. Sometimes unusual emotional effects may also take place. When psychosis is present, the person has immense difficulty in being controlled by the environmental stimuli and is said to lose ‘contact with reality’.
Neuroses on the other hand are less pervasive and debilitating than psychoses. They do not involve substantial loss of behavioural control by environmental stimuli, that is, ‘contact with reality’ is maintained. However, they often tend to be exaggerations of normal reactions. Symptoms of mental disorder can be observed in the form of over activity, retardation, amnesia, apathy, depression, emotional instability and various other morbid disturbances.
Factors which influence mental illness
The incidence of mental health increases with age and we can discern a sharp increase in this illness especially between the age groups of 15-30 years and beyond 60 years of age. We also note that it is usually higher for males as opposed to females. Another important factor which again affects the mental health of people is heredity. For example, if one parent is schizophrenic the expected rate for the children to have the same is around 16 percent. However, if both parents are schizophrenic the expected rate for the children to have the same increases to 68%. Similarly, children of manic-depressive patients have a mental-illness expectancy rate ranging from 10 percent to 24 percent. Also, abused individuals are more likely to have experienced mental disorder and mental illness during childhood which seeps over into adulthood. This abuse can be in the form of physical, verbal or psychological which causes a feeling of lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, depression, isolation and anger at all times, that hampers an individual’s right to lead a happy life. There are physical causes like birth trauma, brain injury or drug abuse that can directly affect brain chemistry and contribute to mental disorders. Also lack of good physical health also affects people’s self-esteem and the inability to achieve their goals usually tends towards unhappiness or even depression.
Economic impact of poor mental health
Poor mental health has an adverse effect on the economy as well as it is one of the costliest forms of sickness. The human capital cost can be used to understand the economic cost of the mental disorder and it is usually divided into direct and indirect costs. The direct costs include medications, hospitalisations, psychotherapy sessions and so on. On the other hand, the indirect costs entail loss of production due to inability to work, income losses due to disability or even mortality. Unfortunately, both the direct and indirect costs are predicted to double by the year 2030 which also hints that the number of people suffering from mental illness will also increase. From a macroeconomic perspective, the cost of mental disorders can be quantified as loss of economic output by estimating the projected impact of mental disorders on a particular country’s Gross Domestic Product. The logic behind this is that economic growth depends on two major factors of production, namely, labour and capital, and both can be negatively influenced by this disease. Capital is depleted by healthcare expenditure and labour is depleted by disability and mortality.
Researchers have conducted a study using the VSL (Value of Statistical Life) approach and concluded that the global economic burden due to mental disorder was estimated at US$8.5 trillion in 2010. Hence, we can say that mental disorder causes tremendous economic costs both directly as well as indirectly.
Medical facilities available
With the advancement of science and technology, treatment of mental health is also possible in various ways. One of the most common forms of medication is psychotherapy. A psychotherapeutic technique often used is ‘suggestion’. The success of this treatment also depends on the simultaneous cooperation of the patient. Chemical shock therapy is another form of therapy usually used for schizophrenic patients who are treated by repeated production of a hypoglycaemic shock to the patient by intramuscular injection of insulin. However, this form of treatment of the patient must only be used under certain conditions. Electroshock therapy is a technique of introducing convulsions in the affective disorder by means of electro-shock methods. This treatment method is more humane, since patients become unconscious before the shock and the element of fear is minimized. These days even brain surgery is widely applied to the treatment of these functional disorders. The operation is usually performed with an aim to severe the long fibres of the white matter of the cerebrum as a result of which the patients lose many aspects of inhibited behaviour such as fearfulness and anxiety and become more cheerful and comfortable with little, if any loss in intelligence.
We celebrate the 10th of October as World Mental Health Day; however, we should not only emphasize on this day but spread awareness about this issue every single day, since it is still not widely known and talked about. Most mental patients are enormously troubled by this problem and are afraid or ashamed to talk about it. We must be more sympathetic towards our fellow humans and make sincere efforts in talking with them and draw them out and get them verbalize their basic difficulties. Together, we can make this world a better place to coexist.
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