World Mental Health Day 2022: Prevalence and Rising Burden of Mental Health Conditions
A lowdown on different types of mental health problems, how they are catching on, and what can be done to prevent rising incidences of mental illness
Mental illnesses are serious conditions that affect your emotions, behaviour, thinking, and overall well-being1. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has defined mental illnesses as dysfunctions of the brain2. The percentage of people experiencing one of the many mental health disorders has advanced significantly over the past decade, posing a severe burden on the healthcare system worldwide.
In the pre-pandemic period of 2019, one in every eight people, which equates to 970 million people globally, were experiencing disorders like anxiety and depression. The following year recorded a significant jump in the number of these cases, and data indicates it to be a 26% and 28% increase, respectively3.
As cases of people reporting symptoms of mental health conditions continue to increase, patients seeking treatment from psychological practitioners have skyrocketed, too, predominantly in developed countries. As per National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), for every 1,00,000 patients, there are only 0.75 psychiatrists, while the WHO estimates that mental health conditions are likely to cause approximately $1.03 trillion in economic losses between 2012 to 2030 globally4.
Living with a diagnosable mental health issue can affect all areas of life – from personal relationships to work, education, and community participation. Thus, learning about early warning signs and addressing these symptoms can help. Early intervention is imperative to reduce the criticality of a mental health condition. Along with this, it is important to remember that the diagnosis of a person with a mental health problem can also change multiple times throughout their life.
Let us identify which are some of the common mental illnesses.
Types of Mental Illnesses
Several global studies suggest that there are approximately 200 mental health disorders, and some of the common ones include5:
Depression is the most common mental health disorder that occurs in people of all ages. WHO estimates that approximately 5% of adults are affected by depression worldwide6. The symptoms vary for every individual. Some may find themselves overtly emotional, while some may feel hopeless with a feeling of anxiety when they are about to start their day. Severe depression can also push one to have suicidal thoughts. All these symptoms affect your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are multiple treatments and supportive therapies available to treat all kinds of depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar depression, persistent depressive disorder (PDD), perinatal and postpartum depression, psychotic depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD)7.
Anxiety is an emotion triggered due to several triggers such as excessive stress, anticipation of misfortune, or fear of adverse circumstances in social situations. In 2019, alone, 301 million people were found to be living with an anxiety disorder, which included 58 million children and adolescents8. There are several signs associated with anxiety disorders, like panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, insomnia, nervousness, nightmares, phobias, and racing thoughts etc.9. Anxiety can be treated through medications and cognitive behavioral therapy10.
Globally, 40 million people have bipolar disorder11. A survey conducted in 2021 found the lifetime worldwide prevalence of bipolar disorder to be 1%. The annual prevalence of bipolar disorder is around 0.5%12. People with bipolar disorder often experience two extreme characteristics, one, when there are episodes of depression, the patient may struggle to even get out of bed. Second, the cycle turns into mania or may present with mania directly, wherein the person may feel excessively energetic, overactive, and excited. In this phase, the person may also indulge in risky behaviors. Following this can be another cycle of a depressive mood, which can severely hamper everyone, including family, friends, and colleagues13.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
As the name suggests, PTSD occurs after experiencing life-changing traumatic events such as sexual abuse, war combat, unexpected family deaths, or natural disasters. Symptoms of PTSD include vivid flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, trouble sleeping, and constant thoughts about the trauma. For many people, these symptoms fade away within a few weeks, while others may last for months or even years14.
Personality disorder is one of the least understood mental illnesses. Data suggests that about 6% of the population worldwide has some form of a personality disorder15. A person with personality disorder shows unhealthy behavior and emotional instability, severely affecting their personal, social, and professional relationships. People with personality disorders tend to have impulsive thoughts, explosive anger outbursts, fear of abandonment, and self-image insecurities. Extreme cases of personality disorders can leave a person feeling paranoid. There are different types of personality disorders, including borderline, narcissistic, and antisocial16.
Psychotic Disorders (e.g.: Schizophrenia)
Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia cause a person to experience moments that are far from reality – like delusions, hallucinations, confused thinking, and inapt communication. Though this condition as common as other mental health disorders, the condition affects every 1 in 300 people or 24 million people globally17. The reasons causing schizophrenia are not known, but it mostly starts due to environmental, physical, psychological, and genetic triggers. In extreme cases of schizophrenia or stressful stimuli, a person may demonstrate a psychotic episode18. In fact, patients with schizophrenia are 2 to 3 times more likely to lose their lives early than others. This is due to significant distress, coupled with physical illnesses like infectious and cardiovascular diseases19.
How Can Mental Health Disorders be Prevented?
Medical researchers, patients, doctors, nurses, and healthcare advocates have been observing the 10th of October 2022 as World Mental Health Day for years. Much like its theme for this year, make mental health for all a global priority. It’s high time to act and prevent ever-increasing mental health disorders. One of the ways to do this is by spreading awareness around different kinds of mental health conditions, taking timely interventions in the event of danger due to mental illness, and working towards eliminating the stigma surrounding this area.
Schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, and social and spiritual groups can take an active part in leading conversations and implementing programs that would promote and prevent mental health-related issues. In the social context, setting up community mental health services and directing more people battling mental health issues to seek support through meeting healthcare providers, counseling, therapy, medication, psychosocial rehabilitation, and supported living benefits can drastically change the scenario. So, if you know someone who is experiencing a mental health disorder, there are a range of services like counselling, therapy, social and residential care, hospital treatment, crisis helplines, and training schemes that aim to offer help and support.