Moninda Marube
3 min readMay 30, 2021
Image courtesy of DELPHIS

Mental illness encompasses a vast field of mental health conditions also called mental health disorders that affect the way one’s mood, behavior, and thoughts.

According to the WHO, mental disorders include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and other psychoses, dementia, and developmental disorders such as autism.

A mental health disorder becomes a mental illness when it incapacitates your ability to function normally, affects your thinking or your interaction with others. The determinants of mental health are not only intrinsic but are also affected by social, environmental, political factors like standard of living, political/civil wars, working conditions, and community. Other factors include genetics, exposure to hazardous waste materials like physical or sexual abuse during the perinatal period, stress, and nutrition.

What are the main risk factors for mental illness?

  • Exposure to traumatic conditions like war zones
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Depression
  • Domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse
  • Drugs and substance abuse
  • Poverty
  • Perinatal exposure to hazardous conditions
  • Mental illness affects one’s mood, thoughts, and behaviors.

What are the signs to look out for?

  • Sudden change in moods. Bouts of high and low
  • Low sex drive
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Lethargy
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Extreme anger that may lead to violence
  • Suicidal/death thoughts
  • Delusion, paranoia, and hallucinations
  • Drugs and substance abuse
  • Loss or Increased appetite
  • More symptoms can be found here

Get medical assistance if you experience the above symptoms because mental health does not end on its own.

Get help right away if you feel suicidal or feel like harming someone else. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1–800–273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

The services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on Lifeline’s website or the Crisis Text Line’s website.

How to help someone with mental health issues.

Ask: find out what plans they have. Ask whether they feel suicidal

Ensure their safety: Limit the person’s access to potentially harmful items.

Be there: Provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Studies show that acknowledging suicidal thoughts and talking about them reduces suicide attempts.

Find help: Help them connect to hotlines and counseling

Keep in touch: Talk to the victim as often as possible

Low- and middle-income countries have no laid systems to deal with mental illnesses. According to WHO, 76–85% of people in low-income economies do not receive any treatment for mental illness.

Apart from medical assistance, people with mental illness need community and social support. A need to educate them on how to respond to their situations in a less stressful way.