At one time or another, most of us will encounter someone who has had issues with their own #mental health, if not you will more than likely, at the very least know someone who knows someone else that has suffered from some form of #mental illness. Most studies that I have read suggest that one in six people are likely to suffer from some variation of being mentally #Unwell, such as the more subtle depression and anxiety, or the more extreme cases like paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and developing suicidal tendencies.

What is mental illness? What are the common triggers and symptoms?

In researching the most common triggers that can lead to a person suffering from mental illness, I noticed that with the exception of biological factors or drug and alcohol abuse (given by Mentalhelp.net) the suggestions the majority of sites such as, Healthtalk.org and Comfirst.org were very much consistent with each other.

These triggers included

  • The anniversary or dates of trauma.
  • Frightening news events.
  • Too much to do, feeling overwhelmed.
  • Family friction.
  • The end of a relationship.
  • Spending too much time alone.
  • Being judged, criticised, teased or put down.
  • Financial troubles.
  • Physical illness.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Being yelled at.
  • Aggressive sounding noises or exposure to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Being around someone who has treated you badly.
  • Certain smells, tastes or noises.
  • Homelessness/bad housing.
  • Work environment.

Likewise, I found that the common signs and symptoms to look out for were all fairly similar.

  • Feeling down.
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy and problems sleeping.
  • Detachment from reality, delusions, paranoia or hallucinations.
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress.
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse. (Which can be a manifestation as well as a cause)
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence.
  • Suicidal thinking.

These symptoms were suggested by both the Mayo Clinic website, Mayoclinic.org and the American Psychiatric Association.

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From here I decided to conduct an interview, consisting of seven questions, with a select few people who have consented to my sharing of their previous struggles with their own mental health. Out of respect for their privacy their names will remain anonymous and will simply be referred to as A, B and C, not all have answered the same questions, as they were given the freedom not to answer any they did not feel comfortable answering.

First-hand look at how mental illness can manifest itself and affect a person's day to day living.

1) When did you first think you may have had mental health issues?

A. ''I first started to suspect it after a bad break up. I had no friends, no job and no life, I remember not even washing my hair. I insisted on wearing black all the time, and I felt blank most of the time. As if someone had ripped out my spirit and left stones in my guts.

B. '' I guess looking back it started when I was a teenager, but at the time I thought I was just going through a moody phase.

It wasn't until much later, when in hindsight I realise I was acting more out of character by literally refusing to talk to people.

C. '' I have always felt different. I can't really explain it. More like I am was detached from everyone else, I don't know really.

2) Looking back what were the earliest signs?

A. ''The earliest signs included, increased sensitivity and shutting myself off from everyone at school. I was the definition of a loner. I also started to develop worrying rituals, or I felt I had no control in my life. Sometimes I wouldn't leave the kitchen for an hour until I was sure everything was turned off.''

B. '' When I suddenly got quieter for no apparent reason that I could think of, I would then just have a lot of really negative thoughts about myself.''

C. ''Again I have always felt strange. Like my mind is always racing with strange thoughts, which I have always thought makes me weird.''

3) How many people (if any) do you talk to about your problems?

A. ''I don't talk to many people about my mental health issues. Although I am very open about them, most people think I am just exaggerating I find.''

B. ''My parents and a few close friends. I don't feel comfortable going to counselling because even so, it is still a stranger.''

C. ''My mum and best friend.''

4) What methods do you employ to help cope?

A. '' TV shows and films help to calm and relax me. Anything that occupies my mind really. Exercise has helped a bit recently and rewarding myself if I have had a particularly bad day.''

B. ''Listening to music helps drown things out usually or just spending time with friends.''

C. ''Reading and a lot of food, haha, no but seriously comfort food does help me a lot.''

5) What would you say has been your worst moment?

A. '' Probably when I was self-harming.''

C. ''When I cut myself and had to lie about it to my mum.''

6) What has or would motivate you to change your approach in dealing with these issues?

A. '' I would be more motivated to deal with my issues overall if therapy wasn't so expensive, if I had a big salary it wouldn't be a problem but a lot of people do not, and sometimes those who struggle financially cannot afford the right help. Also if the counselling offered on the NHS was better, in general, I would be more motivated to tackle my issues as I have had a bad experience with them beforehand. Also, the waiting lists are preposterous, I had to wait six months to see someone only to be told I was, kinda crazy.''

C.'' If there was any guarantee that I would never feel that way again. Which is unrealistic but that's really the only thing I can think of.''

7) In your opinion what is the most frightening thing about openly discussing what you have/ had to deal with?

B. ''Honestly, if I ever did go to counselling it would be being dissected over every little thing I said. If it was with other people, then not being listened to, like people would think I am just being overly sensitive or dramatic. It's one thing to have my issues, but to have them disregarded would just make it all seem hopeless.''

C. ''I just don't like the idea of having it out there, because I feel that if I don't talk about it then at least it won't get any worse. Because it will be contained, I just feel like other people getting involved would just exacerbate things.

8) If you could, what advice would you give to someone coming to terms with having the same or similar problems that as you?

B. '' That while my biggest fear is being judged or laughed at, I have learnt gradually that not everyone is like that. There are a lot of people who are understanding and ready to help when you need them, so pushing yourself to be more open isn't always a bad thing.''

After looking over my interview and coupling it with the information I found on symptoms and triggers, I found that there was a correlation between their research and the personal information I found between these three individuals. Some examples include; person A attributed a part of their development to the trigger of a relationship ending and being unemployed at the time. While person A and B, both discuss in response to my first and second question that they both became withdrawn, becoming detached is one of the suggested signs of mental illness; as well as spending too much time on your own is one of the suggested triggers to becoming ill. Plus person B gave a more general answer, where they claim to have always felt different, which can also cause a sense of detachment cause detachment from peers and family members. You will also see that person A and B both briefly discussed self-harming which is one of the more severe manifestations of being mentally unwell.

Not only does my interview demonstrate how there is credibility in the research conducted on the subject, but more importantly it sheds light on a factor about mental illness that is not often discussed. Being that from looking at these three individuals all seem to have begun their descent, due to a feeling of isolation. This same feeling can develop as people with one of the many forms of mental illness, can continue to isolate themselves from others for fear of being judged, as demonstrated by B and C's response to question seven. We can see that, all three individuals who took part in the interview would be able to relate to one another on some of their most personal levels. Therefore, perhaps a good starting point in helping the mentally ill, would be by encouraging those afraid to come forward to start by getting in touch, maybe through an advice forum, with people suffering from similar issues as their own. Thereby given them the confidence they need, to be more open about their illness and seek the necessary help they require, in order for them to move forward with their life.