What are some common signs and symptoms of mental illness?
Symptoms include but are not limited to … suspiciousness,
social withdrawal, disturbed perceptions, grandiose ideas, eating,
sleeping and/or hygiene habits deteriorating, hearing voices/seeing
things, decreased emotional reactivity, problems concentrating,
problems at school/work trouble understanding what has been read
or heard, having a genetic predisposition to mental illness (i.e.-
parental/family member that has been diagnosed).
It is important to note that if symptoms persist for longer than
two weeks, to seek professional consultation.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a neurological disorder that affects the normal
thinking patterns, the perception of reality, and the ability
to express or read emotions (among other effects). The absolute
cause of the illness is unknown; genetics, environmental factors,
brain developmental patterns, and possibly even early viral infections
may have roles to play in the development of schizophrenia. The
disease most often strikes one person in every one hundred people,
and most often strikes between the ages of 16 – 25.
What types of schizophrenia are there?
Catatonic: excitement consists of driven, excessive,
but purposeless movement. At the other extreme catatonic patients
appear stuporous with rigidly held postures usually remaining
mute and unresponsive.
Disorganized: disorganized speech and behaviors.
Patients exhibiting this effect may be flat or inappropriate some
times.(sometimes even silly.)
Paranoid: delusions and auditory hallucinations
are predominant in patients with this type of schizophrenia while
their cognitive functioning remains relatively intact.
Un differentiated: patients who fail to meet the
criteria for the other types but clearly suffer from this mental
disorder fall here.
What are hallucinations and delusions?
Delusions are fixed beliefs that are based in a false perception
of reality (i.e.- thinking ones self to be God).
Hallucinations are the same as delusions only dealing with the
following: auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, the person may
truly believe that what is happening is real. However people around
them may notice nothing (i.e.- hearing voices).
What are some common treatments used with mental illness?
Although there are various treatments used, ranging from invasive
to less invasive; counseling from a psychiatrist, community counselor,
or a support group, and antipsychotic medications such as Clozaril,
Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel are the most common. In severe
cases of Depression, Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT) may be
used as an alternative treatment, in conjunction with cognitive
therapy and behavior management.
A combination of the above treatments are effective in preventing
relapse by up to 98% if received shortly after the first psychotic
What is Mental Health?
Health is a state of being. It refers to how one is able to cope
with the demands and stress of day-to-day living. We all have
times when we feel depressed, get unreasonable, angry or overly
excited; we may even have periods when we think that everything
and everybody is out to get us and that we cannot cope. These
are normal reactions to particular situations, but if one has
good mental health, one is able to assess the circumstances and
Why are people so uncomfortable or afraid of people with
When someone appears to be different, there is often a stigma
attached to him or her. The stigma is often because of a lack
of understanding of their differences. These stigmas are often
the greatest barrier that an individual with a mental illness
faces. Mental illness usually only becomes visible when an individual
is in crisis.
Mental illness has been distorted through the media. Many individuals
are portrayed as aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable. 70%
of the characters seen on television are violent. Popular movies
attach stereotypes to mental illness – mentally ill killers,
news coverage of tragedies caused by mentally ill individuals,
and the casual use of terms such as “psycho” and “crazy”.
Constant rejection and exclusion often results from these negative
stereotypes. This increases isolation and loneliness. An individual
may also be fearful of rejection from society. This may result
in the unwillingness to seek help.
The only way to get rid of the stigmas attached to mental illness
is to be aware of the facts. There is no particular way to develop
a mental illness. No matter how an individual develops a mental
illness, there is often some form of treatment that will help
them get better, and lead a productive life.
is Mental Illness?
Mental illness includes a broad range of psychological or behavioral
symptoms that reduce an individuals capacity to cope with daily
life; a person may lose contact with himself, his emotions may
be uncontrolled, behavior might be inappropriate, or a person
might lose the ability to communicate effectively with other people.
There is no particular way to develop a mental illness, for some
people it develops due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, other
causes may relate to the amount of stress in their lives, the
patterns of communication they develop within their families,
poverty and poor housing, the number of close friends and family
they have to support them through difficulty and the degree to
which each of them views their self-esteem. While it is difficult
to determine, no one 'develops' a mental illness. Research and
education has enabled many people to get better and live productive
Why do individuals relapse?
Relapse refers to the return or worsening of symptoms of psychiatric
disorder during a current episode of treatment. Or, it refers
to a new episode of illness following a period of time –
months to many years, in which the individual did well and did
not have any symptoms of their illness. This is sometimes called
Psychiatric relapse results from one or more of the following
Poor compliance with treatment plan – not taking medications
as planned, missing therapy or counseling sessions, and not
following through with the recovery activities needed to get
factors that interfere with recovery such as too much free time,
lack of structure, involvement with drugs or alcohol, or excessive
in unhealthy relationships or serious relationships, conflicts
vulnerability – some people have a more serious form of
psychiatric illness than others, and simply having the illness
raises the consumer’s relapse vulnerability.
overload – taking on too much responsibility too soon
and becoming overloaded with stress.
psychiatric conditions are chronic and lifelong relapse is fairly
common. The key to reducing the likelihood of a relapse is early
recognition of mild symptoms that usually precede a significant
worsening of symptoms.
10. What can I do
if someone refuses to go for professional help and is at risk
According to Section 24.1 of the Saskatchewan Mental Health Services
Act, if you have sufficient belief that someone has the potential
to harm themselves or others, then you can lay information under
oath before a magistrate of the court, to enable this person to
receive the assistance they require.
After careful consideration of the information, the judge can
issue a warrant to apprehend the person, giving the police the
authority to do so. The person can then be brought to a Psychiatrist
for an assessment. If the Psychiatrist has reasonable belief to
do so, the person can be hospitalized for the necessary amount
11. What are the
signs that someone may be thinking of committing suicide?
There are many signs that indicate a person may be reaching out
for help and include various feelings, thoughts, actions and physical
Feelings may include desperation, anger, guilt, worthlessness
and loneliness. Overall, the person may exhibit a hopeless and
helpless demeanor. The individual may be verbalizing thoughts
such as, “All of my problems will end soon”, “I
wish I were dead”, “No one can do anything to help
me now”, etc.
Behaviors such as giving away possessions, withdrawing from family,
school and work, abuse of alcohol or drugs, impulsivity or self-mutilation
may also be observed. A person’s physical appearance may
begin to decline along with their interest in daily living skills
and hobbies. The person may be losing weight, not sleeping, or
displaying a decrease in their libido.
How does mental illness affect the family?
Often society may blame the family for having caused the illness
by being a poor functioning family. As a result, the family may
begin to isolate themselves from old friends due to feelings of
guilt and shame. Families may also have to live with long-term
financial and caregiver responsibilities, due to the cyclical
nature of their loved one’s illness and the dependency caused
from deterioration of skills required to be independent. Family
members may also take on the protective role for their loved one
and enable them to stay dependent. Overall, the family may experience
a wide range of feelings, including resentment, fear, anxiety,
depression, frustration, denial, numbness, etc.
What may lead up to someone refusing to take their medication
or stopping their medication?
a person may lack the insight into their illness and believe that
they do not need it or he or she is not ill. At times, side effects
of certain medications are unpleasant and range from dry-mouth
to sexual difficulties. Medication regimes may also be complicated
at times and the individual may be confused and forget to take
In many cases, medication is discontinued because the person is
feeling better and believes that they no longer require such treatment.
What is Self-Esteem?
Your self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself. It is your
evaluation of how able and worthy of respect you are. If you are
self-confident and expect others to respect you as a person, you
are said to have high self-esteem.
Self-esteem is also a learned feeling formed in subtle ways during
childhood, and affects the way you behave for the rest of your
life. It is as though all the praise and put-downs you’ve
ever experienced are recorded and played back whenever you are
faced with similar situations. For example, if you were told that
you were useless when it comes to fixing things, you might not
even want to try now. On the other hand, if you were praised for
your artistic/musical abilities, you might be the next Van Gough
How do I improve my self-esteem?
Improving your self-esteem is hard work but it is possible. There
are many techniques that have been successful in increasing your
self esteem. First of all, begin with exploring particular beliefs
that may lower your esteem. What messages did you get from relatives,
teachers, friends when you were a child? Were you told you were
stubborn, messy, or worthless? If so, take an honest, adult look
at those messages. Perhaps a more accurate description would be
that you were persistent, creative or inexperienced. Decide which
messages you will continue to accept and which were unfair. Next,
stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on what you want to do
and how well you are progressing towards that goal. Last but not
least, give yourself credit where credit is due. Write down everything
you’ve done that has made you feel good about yourself.
Don’t dismiss your accomplishments.
What are common side effects of Antidepressant and Antipsychotic
Side effects include, but are not limited to:
feeling drowsy, weakness and fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, please discuss them with
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
is an anxiety reaction to a real or life threatening traumatic
event. It can occur in anyone in the wake of severe trauma outside
the normal range of human experience (i.e.- war, natural disasters,
car or plane crashes, rape, assault, or other violent crimes against
self or others). These traumas would produce intense fear, terror
and feelings of helplessness in anyone and are more intense when
the trauma is personal.
Symptoms include repetitive, distressing thoughts about the event,
nightmares, flashbacks, and/or avoidance of the thoughts or feelings
associated with the trauma. Phobias may also develop and activities
associated with the trauma may also be avoided.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent anxiety and worry,
experienced for over a period greater than six months. Anxiety
is usually accompanied by feelings of depression, panic attacks,
phobias, or obsessions. Anxiety is often sustained by basic fears
such as fear of losing control, not being able to cope, failure,
rejection or abandonment, death and disease. Symptoms include
body tension, lack of concentration, shakiness, insomnia, irritability,
restlessness and chronic fatigue and become aggravated by situations
that heighten your perception of danger or threat.
What is Bi-Polar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly
"high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then
back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Sometimes
the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they
are gradual. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with
these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called
episodes of mania and depression.
Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood
Increased energy, activity and restlessness
thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
Distractibility, can't concentrate well
Little sleep needed
Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
Increased sexual drive
of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
intrusive, or aggressive behavior
Denial that anything is wrong
Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:
Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
of hopelessness or pessimism
of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
Sleeping too much, or can't sleep
in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused
by physical illness or injury
of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
What is Depression?
A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood,
and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the
way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things.
A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood.
It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can
be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot
merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without
treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate
treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.
What Can I Do To Manage Stress?
are some things that you can do to start lowering and managing
Start a daily checklist of things to accomplish. By writing
down tasks, you get them out of your head, can more clearly
and objectively see what your real responsibilities are and
can then take appropriate action. It also helps to prioritize
these tasks in order of importance, ranking them on a scale
of 1 to 10. When you reach the end of the day, you can visually
see the important tasks that you have accomplished, which will
help unwind both your body and mind.
a sense of humor. Laughter will balance and offset negative
changes in the body chemistry brought on by stress. Laughter
can also put stressful events in their proper perspective.
Give and accept compliments. Words of praise and encouragement
help us and those around us to feel good about the work we do
and who we are as individuals. Positive statements of acknowledgement
for our special contributions and efforts are one of the most
powerful ways to shape and even change behavior.
Avoid over-commitment. Look at everything you have on your plate.
Do these activities represent what you really want for yourself,
or are they the result of trying to please others or look important?
Ask yourself honestly "Am I getting out of life what I
really want?" People who have balance in their life have
time to give to others and to themselves. Do you feel "guilty"
when you say no? Remember, if you don't take control of your
life, someone else will.
Learn to identify situations that are beyond your control. Do
not spend excessive amounts of time and energy worrying about
those things you have no control over. Accept situations for
what they are and then direct your attention to something else
over which you do have control. Realistically evaluate your
need to control others or to take responsibility for life situations
that you have no control over.
What are some of the most common myths of mental illness?
Myth #1: People with mental illness are violent.
Fact: Only a small percentage of people with
mental illness are violent.
Myth #2: People with mental illness have a lower
than normal IQ.
Fact: Most people with mental illness are of
average intelligence, some have a lower than normal IQ, some higher
#3: Mental illness is very rare and unusual.
Fact: Mental illness is neither new nor uncommon,
being found all over the world.
#4: People with mental illness who are psychotic are
Fact: When a person has a psychosis, he perceives
reality in a distorted way. A psychopath commits antisocial acts
mainly for emotional or material gain, and generally lacks a conscience.
#5: Mental illness can be cured.
Fact: These illnesses cannot be cured, but can,
for the most part, be controlled. People with a severe mental
illness can expect to have problems to some degree, for life.
#6: Having schizophrenia means having a 'split personality'.
Fact: A 'split personality' or multiple personality disorder,
is a very different condition from schizophrenia.
#7: Mental illness is contagious.
Fact: Mental illness is not contagious.
#8: People with mental illness are bad or evil.
Fact: People with mental illness are not bad
or evil. They have done nothing to cause the disease. However,
many people are ashamed to have mental illness in their families.
#9: People with mental illness are morally weak.
Fact: People with mental illness cannot stop
their illness by trying harder, just as someone with a hearing
disorder cannot hear by listening harder.
What is Self-Talk?
Self-talk is the quiet, and in some cases not so quiet, conversations
that you have with yourself prior to, during, and after particular
tasks. Self-statements like "way to go," "you can
do it,” or "you're an idiot" are examples of self-talk
during performances. What you tell yourself directly effects how
you feel and perform. Positive self-talk enhances your confidence
and improves your ability to perform well. Negative self-talk
often leads to feelings like doubt, fear, or anxiety, limiting
your ability to perform up to your true potential. By improving
your self-talk, you can stay more focused, motivate yourself to
perform better, and experience greater success.