My friend was anxious and sad for multiple days in a row and eventually I could not help but think she was not grateful enough for the wonderful life she had.
My employee is always sullen and blue – he has not mentioned any issues at home – I think it is just an attitude problem. He cannot keep his temper under control – it is like sitting with a volcano waiting to erupt. He needs to manage and control his anger which exists for no rhyme or reason. Can he/she just get a grip? It is not demotivation – it is just laziness. All it takes is focus to achieve goals and move ahead. Do any of the scenarios sound familiar? They might just be what you diagnosed or they might be a part of a bigger problem your family, friend or colleagues are facing.
A problem that might go unnoticed because of many reasons.
1. You can't measure the symptoms
Unlike many other forms of illnesses, mental health often does not come with a set of measurable symptoms such as a cough, cold, temperature, etc. The symptoms can be very internal to the patient. With visible symptoms, people are urged to take days off from work for recovery and for the fear of the illness being transmitted. With mental health issues, patients often struggle to take days off without an identifiable illness. The sense of guilt that follows use of sick days towards a day that the patient is feeling blue often exacerbates the illness. Imagine telling your boss that you feel depressed, but have no temperature or virus and would like to take a day off.
2. You can't talk about it openly
Mental health is not openly talked about.
The idea harbored is that it is ‘not okay’ to be depressed unless something is critically wrong in your life. The idea differs from other forms of illnesses where it is okay to have an infection, diabetes, or heart issues.
Furthermore, mental illnesses might be more accepted if the triggers are external and can be easily identified (loss of income, death of a family member, failure at workplace etc.) versus scenarios when triggers cannot be attributed to anything visibly external.
Employees fear being seen in a certain light and deemed unfit for handling certain situations if they disclose mental health issues. Hence, the incentive is towards not reaching out to colleagues and friends. The reluctance to see a therapist or psychiatrist generally stems from the underlying feeling that patients are expected to be strong enough to address and manage their issues on their own – after all who does not have problems in life.
3. You can't trust the information around you
The general lack of awareness for the patient as well as friends and family often comes in the way of depression being diagnosed timely. Internet sources and general perception muddles the distinction between sadness and depression. Patients are often encouraged by friends and family to look for triggers for sadness – which might be applicable in some cases of depression – but might not be in other cases caused by chemical imbalances in the body. Patients are also often encouraged by friends and family to find things to keep busy and snap out of the sadness and take control. While some of these suggestions might help in the short term, cases of depression required professional help for management and control.
4. You can't always diagnose the symptoms
There are few visible symptoms – yes. What makes it worse is the multitude of hidden symptoms that together might point to a mental illness but are difficult to diagnose and understand without the help of a professional.
Listlessness, lack of motivation, bursts of anger, anxiety, irritation, tiredness, chest pains or constrictions – one or a combination of these symptoms might point to depression or other mental illnesses.
We are often able to find attribute these symptoms to the current pace and demands of life, and often forget to notice a pattern that together might point to a mental illness. It is healthy to be aware of the unusual and troubling thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
It is healthy to talk to a professional and get help. The stigma is only in our mind.