By Dr. Kala Singh
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to educate Canadians to the reality of mental illness. The week was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association. This year it falls on October 6 – 12.
The modern life style gives a lot of stress, mental tension and mental illnesses. Stress do not cause mental illness in itself, but can trigger it in people who are predisposed. With so much of mental tension in our daily life, it is necessary that we all know the symptoms, causes, types and available treatment for mental illnesses. Because of lack of knowledge, it becomes difficult for people to recognize the symptoms of mental illness. Having proper knowledge helps in the treatment of the patient. Mental illnesses are so common these days that every one must know their symptoms, so that as soon as these are seen in some one, family doctor is contacted and the illness is diagnosed and treated in its early stage. It is always easy to treat the illness in its early stages than in chronic. Mental illnesses cause physical illnesses and vice versa. The important thing is that everyone must have the proper and correct knowledge. Because of lack of information, there are a lot of misgivings about mental illnesses like, jadoo, toona, evil spirit, evil eye, black magic, ghosts, bhoot, prêt and curses. I have seen that when some one gets sick everyone starts giving suggestions. Though these suggestions are meant for the betterment of the patient, most of the times they strengthen their belief in these misgivings. There are many people who claim they can find solutions to these problems through supernatural powers. The truth is that there is no remedy for these problems except through proper medication.
Because of the ignorance about mental illnesses, if a member of the family gets mental illness, we consider it to be a disgrace to the family. It becomes difficult to arrange marriage in the family. So we try to hide the disease. We quietly take the patient to deras of sadhs, traditional healers or astrologers for the treatment and waste valuable time and hard earned money on useless rituals. By the time patient is taken to the doctor, disease is in its chronic stage. Now we have scientific proof that like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can also be treated with proper medication.
Just like physical illnesses there are many types of mental illnesses like worry, anxiety, sadness, depression and delusions. We all know a lot about physical illnesses and how to remain physically healthy, but the knowledge about mental illnesses and how to remain mentally healthy is lacking. To keep ourselves physically healthy we take care of our diet, take regular exercises, do regular blood tests for sugar, cholesterol etc. In the same way we ought to take care of our mental health. Because of the lack of knowledge, many people are becoming mentally sick. To keep ourselves mentally healthy we ought to take care of the following:
- We must feel good about ourselves. That means, our sentiments, like fear, anger, attachment, love, jealousy, worries etc. should be in proper limit. Too much of any of these sentiments can disturb the mental balance.
- We must feel good about others. That means up to certain extent our relations with others should be good. We should not cross the limit of decency, disrespect, anger and insubordination in our relations with others. We should not feel that no body is my friend, no one likes me and no one trusts me. We also should not feel that others do not like me and do not trust me.
- We should be able to pull out of difficult situations of life without any problem.
Consult your family doctor if you or any member of your family or friend is suffering from mental illness.
Dr. Kala Singh worked as Psychiatric Doctor in Africa for 21 years before immigrating to Canada where he worked in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health. Now he gives religious and spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to clients with stress, family problems, domestic problems, relationship problems and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. For more information he can be contacted at 604-327-5253.