“I felt as though I had my breath knocked out of me,” says Claudia, who had just been told she had bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Dealing with the stigma of a mental illness seemed overwhelming.”
“It took a long time to come to terms with our situation,” says Claudia’s husband, Mark. “But I realized that I had to focus on supporting my wife.”
IF YOU or someone you love were diagnosed with a mental disorder, how would you feel? Thankfully, mental illness can be treated. Let us examine a few things you should know that will give you a better understanding of mental disorders.*
Key Facts About Mental Health
“Mental disorders afflict hundreds of millions of people in every part of the world and impact on the lives of their loved ones. One in four people will be affected by mental disorder at some point in their lives. Depression is the single largest contributor to worldwide disability. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are among the most severe and disabling disorders. . . . Although huge numbers of people are affected, mental disorders remain hidden, neglected and discriminated against.”—World Health Organization (WHO).
According to WHO, many people with mental illness refrain from seeking treatment because of the stigma associated with it.
Although most mental disorders are treatable, in the United States approximately 60 percent of adults and almost 50 percent of youths aged 8 to 15 with a mental disorder did not receive treatment in the past year, reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Understanding Mental Disorders
What is mental illness? Experts define a mental disorder as a significant dysfunction in a person’s thinking, emotional control, and behavior. The condition often disrupts a person’s ability to relate to others and to deal with the demands of life.
Mental-health disorders are not the result of personal weakness or a character flaw
The severity of symptoms can vary in length and intensity, depending on the individual and the particular ailment and circumstances. It can affect people of any gender, age, culture, race, religion, or educational and income level. Mental-health disorders are not the result of personal weakness or a character flaw. Through appropriate medical care, individuals can be treated and can live a productive and fulfilling life.
Treating Mental Disorders
Mental-health professionals can treat many mental-health disorders successfully. The first crucial step, then, is to obtain a thorough assessment from a competent health professional who is experienced in treating mental conditions.
Sufferers, however, can benefit from such experience only when they accept suitable treatment. This may require overcoming any reluctance to talk to others about a mental illness. Treatment may include talking to trained mental-health professionals who can help them understand their illness, resolve practical problems, and reinforce the need not to give up the treatment. At such consultations, a family member or friend can play a vital role by providing reassurance and support.
Many people have learned to deal with mental disorders after acquiring a better understanding of their condition and following the treatment prescribed by mental-health professionals. “Before my wife was diagnosed,” says Mark, quoted earlier, “we had little understanding of mental illness. But we’ve learned to take life one step at a time and adapt to our situation. Over time, we have benefited from the support of reliable professionals as well as family and friends.”
The first crucial step is to obtain a thorough medical assessment from a competent health professional
Claudia agrees. “In the beginning, my diagnosis felt like a prison sentence,” she admits. “But even though my illness places limitations on both of us, I have learned that seemingly impossible hurdles can be overcome. So I cope with my mental illness by working together with my treatment team, nurturing relationships with others, and taking one moment at a time.”
Spiritual Health Is Vital
The Bible does not indicate that spirituality cures medical problems. Still, many families around the world have derived much comfort and strength from what the Bible teaches. For instance, the Bible assures us that our loving Creator is keenly interested in consoling those who are “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit.”—Psalm 34:18.
While the Bible is not a health-care book, it provides practical guidance that can help us to cope with painful emotions and distressing circumstances. The Bible can also give us hope for a future when life on earth will be free of illness and pain. God’s Word promises: “At that time the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. At that time the lame will leap like the deer, and the tongue of the speechless will shout for joy.”—Isaiah 35:5, 6.
For the sake of consistency, in this article the term “mental disorder” includes mental illnesses as well as behavioral and psychiatric disorders.
Awake! does not endorse any particular medical treatment. Christians should be sure that any treatment they pursue does not conflict with Bible principles.
See also the article “Stress—Keys to Managing It,” in the May 2014 issue of Awake!