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Invisible wounds

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A popular adage dictates, in no uncertain terms, that time heals all wounds. Cuts can mend, blood will dry, given enough time. One would wonder though whether the truth is the same for wounds that are invisible, scars that are hidden or one is born with. For instance, can time really heal someone on the verge of taking his own life?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800,000 people commit suicide every year. Many more attempt to do so. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, while 78% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.

“Suicide is a serious public health problem; however, suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. For national responses to be effective, a comprehensive multisectoral suicide prevention strategy is needed,” the WHO wrote on its Web site.

“While the link between suicide and mental disorders (in particular, depression and alcohol use disorders) is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness.”

The Philippines is no exception. Thousands of Filipinos suffer from suicidal behavior, due to a variety of causes. A statistical report from Hopeline, the national suicide prevention hotline, showed that the service received 3,479 calls throughout 2016. This is not to mention the unknowable number of people who cannot or do not want to call for help.

Suicide, however, is preventable. Mental health, for this reason, is an issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later. Understanding the different kinds of mental disorders can go a long way towards spreading awareness about the importance of mental health. Ultimately understanding these issues can save those that might otherwise be suffering in silence and prevent them from making an irreversible decision.

Schizophrenia

Medical education and services provider MIMS cited a study conducted by Dr. Tomas Bautista which reported that roughly 1% of people recorded with mental illness suffer from schizophrenia, making it the most common mental illness in the Philippines.

“Triggered by many factors such as genetics, and environmental stress, patients with schizophrenia experience hallucinations, delusions, and mood disturbances. The number one reason why patients with schizophrenia are admitted is auditory hallucination,” MIMS wrote on its Web site.

Schizophrenia is also often characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand what is real due to symptoms like false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, reduced social engagement and emotional expression, and a lack of motivation. People with schizophrenia often have additional mental health problems such as anxiety, depressive, or substance-use disorders.

Substance Abuse

The public as a whole is well aware of this kind of mental disorder, if only through the demonization of illegal drugs by the current administration. However, substance abuse goes further than addiction to shabu. Even excessive consumption of common drugs like alcohol, sleeping pills, or painkillers falls under this category.

According to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), around 6,079 Filipinos were admitted in mental health facilities due to drug use in 2016. Most of them were users of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu), marijuana, and MDMA or Ecstasy.

Depending on the substance, drug abuse may lead to violent impulses, hallucinations, severe anxiety and depression. There is also high rate of suicide in alcoholics and other drug abusers.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

MIMS wrote, “The Philippines has been through calamities like typhoons, landslides, and even volcanic eruptions, which left many Filipinos with negative health effects including mental problems.”

“In 1991, Filipinos experienced the wrath of Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Among the mental problems observed from the victims according to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), PTSD was the top illness with a prevalence rate of 27.6%, followed by depression (14%). A more recent event that caused a rise on PTSD cases in the Philippines is the Typhoon Yolanda which hit the country in 2013.”

PTSD is an illness that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as catastrophe, warfare, sexual assault, traffic collisions, or other life-threatening situations. It is characterized by symptoms that may include disturbing thoughts or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues such as loud noises or triggering words and situations, alterations in behavior, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response. Sufferers of PTSD are very prone to suicidal tendencies and intentional self-harm.

Depression

A state of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness characterize major depressive disorder, known simply as depression. A person is deemed depressed if they experience at least two weeks of an overwhelming low mood persistent across most situations. Depressed individuals often possess low self-esteem, little to no interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, and pain without a clear cause.

Major depressive disorder has a negative effect on a person’s life, and even their sleeping, eating habits, and general health. According to WHO, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide. As such, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. Further studies report that between 2%-7% of adults with major depression commit suicide.

Anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders, meanwhile, can be characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear, often induced by a worry about future events. Those suffering from anxiety may exhibit physical symptoms such as a fast heart rate and shakiness. Various phobias, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, and panic disorder are all different types of anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder, one of the most common type, is characterized by a persistent anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation, as well as restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

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