I had a brainwave the other day and have decided to change things up a little with this blog. Each month we will be focusing on a different topic. For the rest of January (and maybe February, depending on how much there is to talk about) it will be Mental Health. Those issues that are generally “diagnosed” as a mental illness. They are usually diagnosed by people with a medical degree, generally either a General Practitioner (GP) or psychiatrist. For accuracy (particularly for the more complex issues) it is preferable coming from a doctor with a specialty in mental health. That is, a psychiatrist.
We will cover a variety of illnesses and for each will do a post with information about it, common symptoms and treatments. This will be followed by 1 or 2 posts from people who live with the condition. I think it is important that people are able to get an accurate picture of what it is really like to live with mental illness. There is a lot of stigma around about how “dangerous” people with this kind of illness are. The fact is that for the most part, the lives of the people with mental illness are just the same as those without. They function well, have work, families, and so on, and simply face a few more challenges than people without the illness.
To diagnose mental illness a specific set of criteria must be met and be sustained over a certain time period. This is different for each illness and depends on a lot of different factors. A big part of the training for mental health professionals is how to look at the criteria and interpret them for each individual client. In Australia the bible for each professional is called the DSM; the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This contains a description of each illness, its unique set of criteria and how to interpret what the client (and in some cases their family) describes. Every few years there is a revision of the manual, where new criteria are included, things are taken out or adjusted. The current edition is number 5, so the accurate name of the document is the DSM-5.
The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) is also used as a diagnostic tool. It includes physical illnesses as well as mental. And while it is primarily used in the USA, some Australian Professionals use it to supplement the DSM.
As part of this focus month we will cover anxiety, depression, suicide, personality disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Also a possibility is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eating disorders and a whole host of others. If you would like to see any of them please comment below or contact me privately and I will do my best to include information as appropriate. Equally, if you live with one of these illnesses (either one I have listed here or a different one) and would like to share your story, I would love to hear from you! If you don’t want to identify yourself, you are more than welcome to go incognito.
I’ll look forward to hearing from you!