Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

What causes mental health illness

In many cultures, both medical and traditional explanations are used to understand the causes of ill health. Traditional models are often related to spiritual or supernatural causes, such as bad spirits or witchcraft. You should be aware of the beliefs in your culture. However, you should also be aware of the medical theories and use these to explain mental illness to the people who consult you. It is useful to keep in mind the following main factors that can lead to mental illness:

• Stressful life events. Life is full of experiences and events. Some of these may make a person feel worried and under stress. Most people will learn how to deal with such events and carry on with life. However, sometimes they can lead to mental illness. Life events that cause great stress include unemployment, the death of a loved one, economic problems such as being indebt, loneliness, infertility, marital conflict, violence and trauma.

• Difficult family background. People who have had an unhappy childhood because of violence or emotional neglect are more likely to suffer mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety later in life.

• Brain diseases. Mental retardation, dementias and emotional problems can result from brain infections, AIDS, head injuries,epilepsy and strokes. No definite brain pathology has yet been identified for many mental illnesses. However, there is evidence to show that many illnesses are associated with changes in brain chemicals such as neurotransmitters.

• Heredity or genes. Heredity is an important factor for severe mental disorders. However, if oneparent has a mental illness, the risk that the children will suffer from a mental illness is very small. This is because, like diabetes and heart disease, these disorders are also influenced by environmental factors.

• Medical problems. Physical illnesses such as kidney and liver failure can sometimescause a severe mental disorder. Some medicines (e.g. some of those used to treat highblood pressure) can cause a depressive illness. Many medicines when used in large doses in elderly people can cause a delirium.

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