Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy World Mental Health Day

This World Mental Health Day it's important to keep in mind that mental illness is reaching epidemic proportions in Asia. The suicide rate in Korea, for instance, is skyrocketing; already in Japan there are suicide clubs, wherein Japanese youths meet each other online to lend support to each other in their time of crisis. Police there are becoming accustomed to finding hired vans filled with young people who've all asphyxiated themselves with carbon monoxide.

This kind of scenario is bound to increase as the world gets more complicated, diets change, work becomes more sedentary, and an ageing population puts greater and greater strain on its children and grandchildren.

Wherever it strikes, mental illness is the most misunderstood category of disease; even worse that sexually transmitted infection, I would guess. Alongside ignorance is its trusty sidekick, denial, which tries to act like there is no problem. Complicating matters even further are drugs, designed to help with the problem of mental illness (especially serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SRIs), which often do more harm than good; one major side-effect of Prozac is suicidal tendencies, especially in teenagers.

The solution, typically, is as complex as the problem. There will never be one cure for bipolar disorder, for instance, that works for everyone - no matter how hard doctors try to cram us all into the same box, all people are different, and the variables are far too numerous. Still, it's no reason to despair.

If you or someone you know has or thinks they have a mental illness, it's worth your while to investigate all the options - including counselling, exercise, diet, and medication - until you find the combination that works best for that individual.

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