Mental health is a topic that is viewed as the step-child of all illnesses faced by the Namibian society, and is constantly swept under the rug.
Mental illnesses have gone unacknowledged for years, but psychologists said that one in every four persons is bound to be affected by a form of mental health illness intheir lifetime.
“Depending on the severity of a person’s condition the best way to care for them is by gaining knowledge about the illness they suffer from” said local psychologist, Dr Shaun Whitaker.
Mental illness comes in different forms ranging from Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia amongst others. Each illness presents in different ways and can range in severity.
Those suffering from mental health illnesses seldom seek professional help out of fear of being ostracised by their family and community members but family support can go a long way in helping patients not only deal, but also live with their illness.
“I’m often surprised by cases of family members doing nothing. If the person refuses to go see a doctor what you can do as a family is bring in someone they trust that can convince them to go see a doctor” said Whitaker.
Recent reports indicated that between 2008 and 2013 more than 50 000 psychiatric patients visited healthcare facilities in the country, while 8 527 people were being treated in 2015 alone.
Mental health illnesses can be attributed to a number of factors including the ability to manage ones thoughts, emotions and interactions with others, but factors such as social protection, standards of working and living also play a role.
There are many symptoms that one can look out for when looking for symptoms of mental illness such as a reduction in the ability to concentrate, excessive fears or worries, extreme mood changes, withdrawal from friends and low energy and insomnia to name but a few.
The most common mental illness in the world, including Namibia is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This can be closely linked to acute stress disorder, with symptoms occurring within four weeks of the trauma.
People who show symptoms of PTSD or who are at risk of it are urged to make an appointment with a qualified mental health professional who has experience treating patients with PTSD.
Diagnosis of PTSD is based on a report of your history in the aftermath of a life-threatening or violent trauma. The health care provider will ask questions about your symptoms; ask you to describe the traumatic event; ask about your childhood, educational, and work experiences; and relationships with others.
Serious mental illnesses often present challenges. A family member who is mentally unstable may not be able to work, at least temporarily, placing the responsibility on the other family members, who may need to help their loved one locate affordable housing, secure transportation to and from appointments, or figure out how to pay for and pick up medications.
Whitaker said that although accepting changes and establishing a new routine in the family when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness is hard, it is important to note that it is an illness that requires understanding and support. This also helps in understanding that people with serious mental illnesses can live rich, fulfilling live, making everything pleasant for the whole family.