September 10, 2011

The World’s Mental Health

Chance are you know someone close to you with a mental illness

By Melvin J. Howard

It all starts with the brain emotional memories differ from normal memories in that they result from traumas. They are frightening at the time, but even worst, these memories can become enduring and distort our outlooks thereafter. They appear to react more strongly to negative than positive events. Emotional memories are locked in a separate neural circuitry in the brain, mediated primarily by two of the limbic organs, the hippocampus and amyagdala. According to WHO (World Health Organization), mental health is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". WHO stresses that mental health "is not just the absence of mental disorder".

Mental health (disorders) can affect anyone Doctors, Lawyers, and even Politicians

Experts say we all have the potential for suffering from mental health problems, no matter how old we are, whether we are male or female, rich or poor, or ethnic group we belong to. In the UK over one quarter of a million people are admitted into psychiatric hospitals each year, and more than 4,000 people kill themselves. They come from all walks of life.  According to the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health, USA) mental disorders are "common in the USA and internationally". Approximately 57.7 million Americans suffer from a mental disorder in a given year, which is approximately 26.2% of adults. However, the main burden of illness is concentrated in about 1 in 17 people (6%) who suffer from a serious mental illness. Approximately half of all people who suffer from a mental disorder probably suffer from another mental disorder at the same time, experts say. In the UK, Canada, the USA and much of the developed world, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability among people aged 15 to 44. The most common forms of mental illnesses are:

Anxiety disorders - Most people with an anxiety disorder will try to avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety. Examples of anxiety disorders include: Panic disorder - the person experiences sudden paralysing terror or imminent disaster. Phobias - these may include simple phobias - disproportionate fear of objects, social phobias - fear of being subject to the judgment of others, and agoraphobia - dread of situations where getting away or breaking free may be difficult. Obsessive-compulsive disorder - the person has obsessions and compulsions. In other words, constant stressful thoughts (obsessions), and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing (compulsion). PSTD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) - this can occur after somebody has been through a traumatic event - something horrible and scary that the person sees or that happens to him or her. During this type of event the person thinks that his/her life or other people's lives are in danger. The sufferer may feel afraid or feel that he/she has no control over what is happening. Mood disorders - these are also known as affective disorders or depressive disorders. Patients with these illnesses share disturbances or mood changes, generally involving either mania (elation) or  depression. Experts say that approximately 80% of patients with depressive disorder improve significantly with treatment. Examples of mood disorders include: Major depression - the sufferer is not longer interested in and does not enjoy activities and events that he/she previously got pleasure from. There are extreme or prolonged periods of sadness. Bipolar disorder - also known as manic-depressive illness, or manic depression. The sufferer oscillates from episodes of euphoria (mania) and depression (despair). Dysthymia - mild chronic depression. Chronic in medicine means continuous and long-term. The patient has a chronic feeling of ill being and/or lack of interest in activities he/she once enjoyed - but to a lesser extent than in major depression. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) - a type of major depression. However, this one is triggered by lack of daylight. People get it in countries far from the equator during late autumn, winter, and early spring. Schizophrenia disorders - The sufferer has thoughts that appear fragmented; he/she also finds it hard to process information. Schizophrenia can have negative or positive symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, thought disorders and hallucinations. Negative symptoms include withdrawal, lack of motivation and a flat or inappropriate mood.

Treatments and strategies for mental health problems

There are various ways people with mental health problems might receive treatment. It is important to know that what works for one person may not work for another; this is especially the case with mental health. Some strategies or treatment are more successful when combined with others. The patient himself/herself with a chronic (long-term) mental disorder may draw on different options at different stages in his/her life. The majority of experts say that the well-informed patient is probably the best judge of what treatment suits him/her better. It is crucial that healthcare professionals be aware of this.

Often people wait a long time before they ask for help they and their family feel that something is wrong but they don’t know what. They also may be reluctant to ask for help in addition, diagnosing a mental disorder can take time months or even years. Observations by family and friends in the disturbance in your behaviour are the first indicators. This should be followed up with psychological tests of an experience health professional your doctor or a specialized mental health professional such as psychiatrist or psychologist. There are a number of reasons people struggle with mental disorder they simply don’t know what’s wrong they just feel different. Or they feel the can beat it on their own. Exasperated family and friends are at their wits ends to deal with the issue. Yet we know that the earlier people get help, the better the outcome. One way to get the help you need for yourself or someone you know is to educate yourself about what a mental disorder looks like.

As reported by (Reuters) - Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study. With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden -- measured in the hundreds of billions of euros -- as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down. "Mental disorders have become Europe's largest health challenge of the 21st century," the study's authors said. At the same time, some big drug companies are backing away from investment in research on how the brain works and affects behavior, putting the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience. "The immense treatment gap ... for mental disorders has to be closed," said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany's Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

Help Yourself

Alterations in lifestyle, which may include a better diet, lower alcohol and illegal drug consumption, exercise and getting enough sleep can make enormous differences to a mental health patient's mental health.

Diet and mental health

It is an accepted fact that food affects how people feel, think and behave. Most experts accept that dietary interventions could have an impact on a number of the mental health challenges society faces today. So, why is it that governments and public health authorities in developed economies invest so little in developing this knowledge? The evidence is growing and becoming more compelling that diet can play a significant role in the care and treatment of people with mental health problems, including depression, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Experts are talking about an integrated approach, which recognizes the interplay of biological, psychological, social and environmental factors - with diet in the middle of it as being key. Individuals can do something about their diet themselves and improve their mental health. 
It is estimated that in the UK people eat 4 kilograms of food additives each year. Scientists are not sure what effect decades of such consumption may have on the brain. Governments are reluctant to fund, conduct or publish rigorously controlled large-scale studies, which look at the effect of additives on human mental health. Changing farming practices have introduced higher levels of different types of fat into our diet. For example, chickens reach their ideal weight for slaughter twice as quickly today compared to three decades ago - this has changed the nutritional profile of meat, according to a report by the Mental Health Foundation (UK). Three decades ago a typical chicken carcass used to be 2% fat - today they are a whopping 22%. The omega-3 fatty acid content in chicken meat has dropped while the omega-6 fatty acids have risen. The same is happening to farmed fish.
Our brains' dry weight consists of approximately 60% fat. Our brain cell membranes are directly affected by the fats we eat. Saturated fats make our brain cell membranes less flexible. Saturated fats are those that harden at room temperature. 20% of the fat that exists in our brain is made up of essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. The word essential here means we cannot make it ourselves, so we have to consume it in order to get it. Fatty acids perform crucial functions in the structuring of neurons (brain cells), making sure that optimal communication is maintained within the brain. Nutritionists say omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids should be consumed in equal amounts. If we consume unequal amounts there is a higher chance of having problems with depression, concentration and memory. It is crucial omega-3 intake is kept up. While one study shows a link between omega-3 intake and mental skills, others show there are benefits for cardiovascular problems, diabetes, ADHD, and a whole host of other problems:

Trans-fat, which has appeared in growing quantities into much of the food we eat over the last few decades, assumes the same position as essential fatty acids in the brain. In other words, the proper vital nutrients are not able to assume their right position for the brain to function effectively. Trans-fats are commonly found in cakes, biscuits, shortbread, some pastries and many ready meals. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, are made from amino acids which we often have to get by eating it. If you want to feed your brain with good stuff eat less intensively farmed chicken and meat, and go for organic chicken and non-farmed oily fish, such as tuna, sardines, trout, or salmon.

Run, jog, walk get out of your car and exercise
A Harvard University study found that exercise may help people with depression by enhancing body image, providing social support from exercise groups, a distraction for every day worries, heightened self-confidence from meeting a goal, and altered circulation of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and the endorphins. Even a very small amount of additional exercise has been seen to have an important impact on mental health.  Exercise can boost an exercise-related gene in the brain that works as a powerful anti-depressant. Apparently, though only 5% of GPs (general practitioners, primary care physicians) use it as one of their most regular treatment responses, compared to 92% who use antidepressants as one of their most popular treatment responses. If you have a mental disorder, remember that you can do the exercise yourself. You do not need to wait for your doctor to "prescribe" it for you. Perhaps you should initially check whether you are in acceptable physical health to do exercise. If you are not, insist that your doctor help you devise an exercise plan that suits you. There is evidence that very moderate alcohol consumption may aid mental health in some cases. However, the evidence is overwhelming that excessive alcohol has a very bad impact on people's mental health. Whatever your attitude is to alcohol, remember that alcohol will not resolve your mental health problems nor any other problems you might have, and will most likely make them worse if you are not very, careful.