Contributed by Tankeng Brandy.

The issue of mental illness has been trending on social media recently mainly because of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown that has aggravated the condition. Equally, more people are also acknowledging mental health problems increasing the need for support systems. Interestingly, most Africans still associate mental illness with stigma making it difficult for sufferers to get support and medical attention. Mental health issues like depression, addictive behaviours and personality disorders and more are often undermined while victims are derided as lazy or unmotivated. Yet one’s mental health is very important as it is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. Mental illness is a wide range of conditions that affect the mood, thinking and behaviour of an individual. It is associated with distress and problems functioning and coping with the stress of daily life. Sometimes people are unaware of their condition which can be very frustrating thus outlining some common forms of mental illness become imperative.

Depression is a common mental illness characterised with depressed mood swings, loss of interest in daily life activities. It causes a psychological and social distress which might cause a change in brain function. According to Mayo Clinic, a person can be identified as depressed when they experience symptoms like persistent sadness, loss of interest in things, sleeping problems, changes in appetite level, lack of concentration and low self-esteem. These could lead to suicidal thoughts. Sometimes social media can have a negative effect on depressed people because of the ‘perfect’ life others seem to be living while enhancing the sense of worthlessness in the patient. Depression can also occur when individuals are going through difficult life situations like divorce, sickness, financial problems, bereavement and more. Depression can be cured through therapy wherein the patient is encouraged to share their worries with therapists.

Anxiety Disorder
A person with anxiety disorder constantly experiences an unpleasant state of mental uneasiness. It can be a feeling of worry and fear which is strong enough to interfere with their day- to -day life. The symptoms of anxiety disorder can be panic attacks and post-traumatic stress (PSD) disorder. Anxiety disorder can result from the inability to set aside worries which leads to restlessness. On social media people of young ages share their life activities, cars, houses, and clothes. This causes other youths to think they are failures in life which may trigger self-esteem issues and anxiety. But what they fail to understand is that people only post the highlights of their real life and not the times when they feel down. This anxiety Disorder can also be treated through therapy, abstaining from triggers like alcohol and social media.

Personality Disorder
Personality Disorder involves an unhealthy, inflexible and negative pattern of thoughts, actions and behaviours. Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviours that makes a person unique, it is how a person views, understands and relates to the outside world. A person with this mental illness has trouble realising that they have a problem; this is because their way of thinking and acting seems natural to them. They are often unable to relate to the problems of others and blame people for misunderstanding them. This causes limitations in relationships increasing isolation. Personality Disorder can be hereditary, the environment a person grows in, traumatic experiences and the relationship a person has with family and others. We see that, childhood experiences such as sexual abuse, verbal abuse are also some of these factors. Without treatment personality disorder can last for a very long time. A possible solution to this is to see a talk therapist and if the case is critical a medical doctor.

Addictive behaviours
Behavioural Addiction is a type of addiction that involves a set of behaviours that a person becomes dependent on and craves despite any negative consequences to the person’s physical, social and most importantly mental well-being. Most youths and adults suffer from this addiction but they do not realise this because it does not have the same physical risk that a person with drug or sex addiction has. Its symptoms include denial, missing work, school or significant events just because they want to stay online, fighting with friends and family, lack of sleep and self-care. People might find this normal but when the individual in question finds it difficult to stop doing these things, it is an addiction and needs to be treated, if not the individual might go through immense suffering. People who have this disorder are likely to suffer headaches, neck and back pain. For this to be treated the individual must acknowledge the problem and seek help from counselors and therapists.

Mental health illness evidently is rampant and varied but treatable. It is very important to get help when one feels the need and find a support system to avoid deterioration. We should encourage our friends and family to take out time to take care of themselves by eating healthy, participate in physical exercise and maintaining regular schedules. We should also always try to boost up their self-esteem and explain to them that social media is just social media and life outside is difficult, one has to be open to reality and accept what is, strive to be better and do whatever it is they can. Not everybody is the same.