As of 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that mental illness or disorder made up about 10 per cent of the global burden of disease and 30 per cent of non-fatal disease burden.
Shockingly, research by the organisation indicated that one of every five persons in the world had a mental disorder, adding that around 264 million people were suffering from depression.
WHO said about 800,000 people die by suicide every year, noting that suicide was the second leading cause of death in individuals aged between 15 and 29 years.
Additionally, the health body said people with severe mental disorders die 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population.
WHO in analysing its economic implication said mental illness causes the global economy to lose about $1tn every year.
Unfortunately, a study by the Geneva, Switzerland-based organisation stated that less than half of the 139 countries of the world had mental health policies.
According to the organisation, mental health is an integral and essential component of health, and there is no health without mental health.
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community,” the WHO’s constitution stated.
According to other medical experts and bodies, there are many people who feel they are mentally healthy because they don’t suffer from conditions such as dementia, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer’s.
However, conditions such as anxiety and depression, whether mild or severe, are also some signs of mental health illness, even though they may not be apparent on a victim’s face.
In fact, the United States Department of Health and Human Resources said in a 2017 article it was a fallacy for anyone to believe they were immune from mental illness, stating that everyone was prone to the condition.
The body also debunked the belief that people with mental health problems were violent and unpredictable, stating that the vast majority of people with mental health problems were not violent.
In fact, it was said that only between three and five per cent of violent acts could be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness.
“Many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities,” the US agency said.
“Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees,” it added.
A non-profit organisation based in the US, Mayo Clinic, noted that mental health disorder could be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors such as a history of mental illness in the family and stressful life situations like financial problems, death of a loved one or a divorce.
Other causes of mental illness are chronic medical conditions, brain damage as a result of a serious injury, military combat, substance abuse, a childhood history of abuse or neglect, or a lack of healthy relationships.
Mental health conditions get harder to treat if one waits until the symptoms are bad, which is why it is important to pay attention to the signs that accompany it.
The following are some mental illness signs to watch out for as noticing them early enough can help one to quickly tackle the condition.
Rapid mood changes and suicidal thinking
It is okay to feel angry, sad or emotional according to our circumstances, but unreasonable dramatic emotional outbursts such as anger or crying regularly hint at depression or some other mental illness, according to experts at the American Psychiatric Association.
The National Institute of Mental Health, US, also listed a loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities as one of the telltale symptoms of depression. Also, researchers said having suicidal thoughts was a major sign of mental illness.
Living with guilt
Being too critical of oneself and blaming oneself for some situations that went wrong in the past might be signs of mental illness.
A psychiatrist based in Lagos, Dr Bola Adesiyan, noted that “Over time, these thoughts can lead to depression if the person does not seek professional help,” she said. “Whatever it is, maybe a failed relationship or marriage, job loss or other, it is wise to stop blaming oneself for the past. It could lead to depression.”
Excessive fears or worries
Having excessive fears or feeling tense and worrying for a prolonged time is a sign of mental illness. Yes, everyone gets anxious sometimes, but if one’s worries and fears are so constant that they interfere with one’s ability to function and relax, one may have a generalised anxiety disorder, simply known as GAD.
GAD is a common anxiety disorder that involves constant and chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. Unlike a phobia, where fear is connected to a specific thing or situation, the anxiety of GAD is diffused – a general feeling of dread or unease that colours one’s whole life.
This anxiety is less intense than a panic attack, but much longer-lasting, making normal life difficult and relaxation impossible. GAD is mentally and physically exhausting. It drains one’s energy, interferes with sleep, and wears one’s body out.
Paranoia and delusions
According to a non-profit based in Virginia, US, Mental Health America, paranoia involves intense anxious or fearful feelings and thoughts often related to persecution, threat, or conspiracy.
Paranoia can become delusions, a state when irrational thoughts and beliefs become so fixed that nothing, including contrary evidence, can convince a person that what they think or feel is not true.
When a person has paranoia or delusions, but no other symptoms (like hearing or seeing things that aren’t there), they might have what is called a delusional disorder. Because only thoughts are impacted, a person with delusional disorder can usually work and function in everyday life. However, their lives may be limited and isolated.
Social withdrawal, according to experts, can be defined as voluntary isolation involving the cessation of any form of social relationship and contact with people and the outside.
Medical expert, Jennifer Soong, said avoiding social contact was a common pattern one might notice when falling into depression.
“Some people skip activities they normally enjoy and isolate themselves from the world. Others turn to alcohol or junk food to mask their pain and unhappiness,” Soong wrote on Webmd.com.
Also, author and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, Dr Stephen Ilardi, said the social withdrawal was the most common telltale sign of depression.
“When we’re clinically depressed, there’s a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down. It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need,” he said.
When in depression, Ilardi said social isolation typically served to worsen the illness, saying, “Social withdrawal amplifies the brain’s stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it.”
Dramatic appetite changes or decline in personal care are also signs of mental illness, a psychiatrist based in Abuja, Mrs Fausat Bello, said.
Also, psychotherapist and counsellor, Jayne Leonard, said eating too much or too little could suggest the presence of depression.
“Some people turn to food for comfort, while others lose their appetite or eat less due to low mood.
“These changes in food intake can cause a person to start gaining or losing weight. Dramatic weight changes can also exacerbate depression, as they can affect a person’s self-esteem,” Leonard wrote on Medical News Today.
Changes in sleep habits
There is a strong link between mood and sleep. A lack of sleep can contribute to depression, and depression can make it more difficult to sleep.
Also, research by Mohammed Al-Abri published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal suggested that sleeping too much could also be a sign that a person may have depression.
Less optimistic than others
According to Leonard of Medical News Today, there is a theory that people with depression may display a trait called “depressive realism,” which means that they may be “more accurate” in their view of events and the control they have over those events than people without depression.
She said, “People with depression may also be more pessimistic. Studies suggest that those with a major depressive disorder often have a more negative view of the future.
“Being more realistic or pessimistic than others may be one sign of depression, especially if the person has other possible symptoms of depression.”
Loss of concentration
When a person trails off during conversations or loses their train of thought, it can indicate issues with memory and concentration, which is a common symptom of depression.
A 2014 study by Eiko Fried and Randolph Nesse published in the Plos One Journal and titled, ‘The Impact of Individual Depressive Symptoms on Impairment of Psychosocial Functioning,’ suggested that the difficulties with concentration and focus could worsen the social impact of depression by making work life and personal relationships more challenging.
Fatigue and physical pains
True, depression is a mental health condition, but medical experts said it could also have physical consequences. Feeling excessively tired is a common symptom of depression. Some research suggests that over 90 per cent of people with depression experience fatigue.
Although everyone feels tired from time to time, people who have severe or persistent tiredness – especially if it accompanies other symptoms – may have hidden depression.
In addition to weight changes and fatigue, other physical symptoms of hidden depression to look out for include: backache, chronic pain conditions, digestive problems, and headache.
Research also indicates that those with major depression are more likely than those without the condition to experience arthritis, autoimmune conditions, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
What to do if you notice any of the signs
People who believe that they may have hidden mental illness should speak to their doctor or mental health professional.
Other steps to treat depression might include:
Reducing stress, such as through meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga
Improving self-esteem through positive self-affirmations
Socialising with others
Engaging in activities that one used to enjoy or attempting to identify new activities that may be of interest
Eating a balanced diet
Asking family or friends for support
Joining a support group.
Also, if a loved one appears to have signs of hidden depression, try to talk to them about their symptoms and offer non-judgmental support and advice. You can help by encouraging them to seek treatment, offering to accompany them to appointments, planning enjoyable activities together, exercising together, and encouraging them to socialise with others.