Mental Health & Illness - Frequently Asked Questions

Mental Health & Illness - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Mental Health and Mental Illness ?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others.”  The WHO further states that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health".

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.

Mental Health

Mental Illness

Involves effective functioning in daily activities resulting in

  • Productive activities (work, school, caregiving)

  • Healthy relationships

  • Ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.

Refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving

  • Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior

  • Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities

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2. Who does Mental Illness affect?

Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, income, social status, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or background. Although mental illness can affect anyone, certain conditions may be more common in different populations . For instance, eating disorders tend to occur more often in females, while disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is more prevalent in children.

Additionally, all ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable. Mental illnesses usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, with 75 percent of mental health conditions developing by the age of 24. This makes identification and treatment of mental disorders particularly difficult, because the normal personality and behavioral changes of adolescence may mask symptoms of a mental health condition.

Parents and caretakers should be aware of this fact, and take notice of changes in their child’s mood, personality, personal habits, and social withdrawal. When these occur in children under 18, they are referred to as serious emotional disturbances (SEDs).

References: CLICK HERE

3. What causes Mental Illness ?

Although the exact source of mental illness is not known, research points to a mix of genetic, biological, psychosocial, and environmental factors as being the root of most conditions .

Since this combination of causes is complex, there is no sure way to prevent mental illness. However, you can reduce your risk by practicing self-care, seeking help when you need it, and paying attention to early warning signs.

References: CLICK HERE

4. What are some of the known common Mental Health Illness?


Anxiety and panic attacks

Bipolar disorder

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)


Dissociative disorders

Drugs - recreational drugs & alcohol

Eating problems

Hearing voices


Hypomania and mania


Mental health problems - introduction

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Panic attacks


Personality disorders


Postnatal depression & perinatal mental health

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)


Schizoaffective disorder


Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)



Sleep problems


Suicidal feelings

Tardive dyskinesia

For Further Reading on each topic, click on the names to get redirected to their respective pages.

References: CLICK HERE

5. What is a severe and persistent mental illness?

Severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) is the most serious and debilitating form of mental illness, causing lasting, disabling disturbances in thinking, feeling, and relating. Some examples of SPMI are:

  • Schizophrenia: Interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, to distinguish reality from fantasy, to manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others.

  • Bipolar disorder: Also called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a serious brain disorder that causes dramatic mood swings from overly “high” and/or irritable (mania) to sad and hopeless (depression), and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between . Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe.

  • Major depression: Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health. Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.

References: CLICK HERE

6. How do I recognise the Warning Signs?

It is especially important to pay attention to sudden changes in thoughts and behaviors. Also keep in mind that the onset of several of the symptoms below, and not just any one change, indicates a problem that should be assessed. The symptoms below should not be due to recent substance use or another medical condition.

In Adults, Young Adults and Adolescents:

  • Confused thinking

  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)

  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows

  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties

  • Social withdrawal

  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Strong feelings of anger

  • Strange thoughts (delusions)

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)

  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments

  • Substance use

In Older Children and Preadolescents:

  • Substance use

  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities

  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits

  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments

  • Changes in ability to manage responsibilities - at home and/or at school

  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism

  • Intense fear

  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death

  • Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children:

  • Changes in school performance

  • Poor grades despite strong efforts

  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits

  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)

  • Hyperactivity

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Persistent disobedience or aggression

  • Frequent temper tantrums

References: CLICK HERE

7. How do I cope up with it on a day to day basis?

Accept your feelings

Despite the different symptoms and types of mental illnesses, many families who have a loved one with mental illness, share similar experiences. You may find yourself denying the warning signs, worrying what other people will think because of the stigma, or wondering what caused your loved one to become ill. Accept that these feelings are normal and common among families going through similar situations. Find out all you can about your loved one’s illness by reading and talking with mental health professionals. Share what you have learned with others.

Handling unusual behavior

The outward signs of a mental illness are often behavioral. A person may be extremely quiet or withdrawn.  Conversely, he or she may burst into tears, have great anxiety or have outbursts of anger. Even after treatment has started, some individuals with a mental illness can exhibit antisocial behaviors. When in public, these behaviors can be disruptive and difficult to accept.  The next time you and your family member visit your doctor or mental health professional, discuss these behaviors and develop a strategy for coping.

Your family member's behavior may be as dismaying to them as it is to you. Ask questions, listen with an open mind and be there to support them.

Establishing a support network

Whenever possible, seek support from friends and family members. If you feel you cannot discuss your situation with friends or other family members, find a self-help or support group. These groups provide an opportunity for you to talk to other people who are experiencing the same type of problems.  They can listen and offer valuable advice.

Seeking counseling

Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members.  A mental health professional can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one’s illness.

When looking for a therapist, be patient and talk to a few professionals so you can choose the person that is right for you and your family.  It may take time until you are comfortable, but in the long run you will be glad you sought help.

Taking time out

It is common for the person with the mental illness to become the focus of family life.  When this happens, other members of the family may feel ignored or resentful. Some may find it difficult to pursue their own interests.

If you are a caregiver, you need some time for yourself. Schedule time away to prevent becoming frustrated or angry.  If you schedule time for yourself it will help you to keep things in perspective and you may have more patience and compassion for coping or helping your loved one. Being physically and emotionally healthy helps you to help others.

“Many families who have a loved one with mental illness share similar experiences”

It is important to remember that there is hope for recovery and that with treatment many people with mental illness return to a productive and fulfilling life.

References: CLICK HERE

8. What should I know before starting a new medication?

The best source of information regarding medications is the physician prescribing them. He or she should be able to answer questions such as:

  • What is the medication supposed to do?

  • When should it begin to take effect, and how will I know when it is effective?

  • How is the medication taken and for how long?

  • What food, drinks, other medicines, and activities should be avoided while taking this medication?

  • What are the side effects and what should be done if they occur?

  • What do I do if a dose is missed?

  • Is there any written information available about this medication?

  • Are there other medications that might be appropriate? If so, why do you prefer the one you have chosen?

  • How do you monitor medications and what symptoms indicate that they should be raised, lowered, or changed?

All medications should be taken as directed. Most medications for mental illnesses do not work when taken irregularly, and extra doses can cause severe, sometimes dangerous side effects. Many psychiatric medications begin to have a beneficial effect only after they have been taken for several weeks.

It is not uncommon for people to stop taking their medication when they feel their symptoms are under control. Others may choose to stop taking their medication because of its side effects, without realizing that most side effects can be effectively managed. While it may seem reasonable to stop taking the medication, the problem is that most often, the symptoms will return. If you or your child is taking medication, it is very important that you work together with your doctor before making decisions about any changes in your treatment.

Another problem with stopping medication, particularly for stopping it abruptly, is that you may develop withdrawal symptoms that can be very unpleasant. If you and your doctor feel a trial off your medicine is a good idea, it is necessary to slowly decrease the dosage of medications so that these symptoms don’t occur.

It is important that your doctor and pharmacist work together to make sure your medications are working safely and effectively. You should talk with them about how you are doing and if there are side effects that make you unwilling to continue treatment. They will work with you to develop strategies for minimizing these side effects, or will create a plan for switching to a different treatment that will be a better fit.

References: CLICK HERE

9. Can people with mental illness recover?

Yes. People with mental illness can recover to live full, balanced, and productive lives. When healing from a mental health disorder, early identification and therapeutic intervention are critical. Seeking treatment as soon as symptoms present gives a person the best chance at achieving stability and developing coping skills required to manage the condition long-term.

References: CLICK HERE

10. What are the available helpline centres in India?

If you too get this feeling of a void in your life—of loneliness, anxiety, prolonged stress, insomnia, loss of appetite, or a sense of a grey cloud following you everywhere—we have your back. We are here to support you. Sometimes all you need is a listening ear. Here are some organisations you can call, and they will guide to back to the light.




iCALL is a service from TISS, run by trained mental health professionals. iCALL provides emotional support, information and referral services to individuals in psycho-social distress, across the lifespan and across different gender and sexual identities.

Helpline:  022-25521111 | 08:00 AM to 10:00 PM | Monday to Saturday


Proficient with: 

मराठी, বাঙালি, తెలుగు, हिंदी, English



Sahai is a service provided by Medico Pastoral Association (MPA). MPA is a 51 years old psychosocial rehabilitation home for people with mental health issues. Sahai has received over 11000 calls since its inception in 2002. They have 20 active volunteers who have undergone a training conducted by MPA Clinical Manager where faculty from Nimhans and other psychiatrists hold sessions. Sahai does not charge any fee to our callers. If any caller requires face to face counselling, they are referred to MPA counsellors who are fully trained.

Helpline:  080 – 25497777 | 10:00 AM to 08:00 PM | Monday to Saturday


Proficient with:  हिंदी, English
Samaritans Mumbai

Samaritans Mumbai

Need someone to talk to? Call us if you are disturbed, stressed, depressed or suicidal. We provide complete anonymity and strict confidentiality. You can talk to us about your innermost thoughts without fear of being judged or criticized. 

We are situated in Dadar, Mumbai

Helpline:  +91 84229 84528, +91 84229 84529, +91 84229 84530 | 03:00 PM - 09:00 PM | Monday to Sunday


Proficient with:  मराठी, हिंदी, English

COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ)

COOJ Mental Health Foundation (COOJ) works towards promoting mental health in Goa under four major needs: Psychosocial rehabilitation, Suicide Prevention, Elder Care and Community Mental health. They operate a confidential helpline which offers emotional support individuals dealing with suicidal thoughts, as well as those experiencing other levels of distress. It is run by volunteers trained in Mindfulness Based Active Listening.

Helpline:  0832-2252525 | 01:00 PM - 07:00 PM | Monday to Friday


Proficient with:  English
Aasra logo
Aasra is a part of the Befrienders Worldwide/Samaritans and is a registered non profit. The objective of Aasra is to alleviate human misery by offering active listening. i.e. non-judgmental and non-critical listening to anyone in need.

Helpline:  9820466726 | 24 x 7

Proficient with:  हिंदी, English


References: CLICK HERE

For Further Reading on varied topics, do check the following links: