How to prevent a relapse of nervous breakdown
- There are nearly 300 mental disorders recognized in the major classification systems.
- A few years ago, the World Health Organization formulated the maxim that âthere is no health without mental healthâ.
- In some ways, this was the start of increased attention to mental health around the world, and Kenya is no exception.
Q âMy 54-year-old aunt was successfully treated for a nervous breakdown two years ago, although the doctor warned that we are just watching for a relapse of the disease. What can cause the reappearance of such a condition? “
As most readers of this column already know, there are almost 300 mental disorders recognized in major classification systems. It is therefore important for us to know for which conditions your aunt may have been treated. This is crucial because some mental disorders are very common, others are not. Some get better with minimal effort and others are chronic and tend to be more difficult to treat. Most require careful monitoring, as do other medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
A few years ago, the World Health Organization formulated the maxim that âthere is no health without mental healthâ. In some ways, this was the start of increased attention to mental health around the world, and Kenya is no exception.
There is an obvious urgency for Kenyans to better understand their mental health and do something about it. The recently launched Mental Health Task Force report underscores this. Last year we saw a 23 year old college student who came to see us against his parents’ wishes.
The young man had failed his third year college exams, a fact that confused and puzzled him and his family. It was the first time he had failed a test in his life. Her father blamed the peer pressure and the new daughter who had recently left him while her mother blamed the evil spirits who were there for everyone to see these days.
The young man had gone to Google and researched the symptoms he had been experiencing. He felt sad, had no energy, didn’t sleep well, felt hopeless and useless and didn’t appreciate anything anymore. He was losing weight quickly and sometimes felt like life wasn’t worth living.
Google has been clear. This constellation of symptoms meant he was suffering from major depressive disorder and needed to see a mental health specialist to get better.
After the prayers, the priest he had seen at their local church brought him to us for further assessment. The young priest had completed a training program that enabled him to recognize the complementarity of the relationship between mental health specialists and spiritual providers.
Following the treatment, the young man was able to pass the additional exams offered a few months later and graduated shortly after. The priest told his parents about depression as an illness and it was then that his mother brought in his 54 year old sister (the patient’s aunt) who was also diagnosed with depression.
An uncle who had passed out in alcohol also suffered from a long-standing depressive illness. The family is now converted into ambassadors for mental health advocacy.
This story long enough is told to capture the simple point that there is hope. Young Kenyans, thanks to technology, are at the forefront of the war against the stigma and discrimination that was once so common in this country.
Without knowing what condition your aunt is suffering from, all we can say is that it is possible that she was treated for a depressive illness and that the doctor was right to warn that without treatment, the illness could relapse. This is also true for many conditions treated by physicians today.
She may have been told to take the medicine for a while. A lot of people don’t follow this simple advice. They (mistakenly) argue that because they now feel well, it is time to stop the drug. The opposite is the case. Because they feel good, that is the reason why they continue to take the advice of doctors. He proved he knew what he was doing.
Others are told to avoid things like alcohol and again argue that since nothing has happened in six months of abstinence, then the alcohol at their daughter’s wedding should not be missed.
It becomes the first step on a slippery slope. Others learn to resolve marital conflicts and then they forget! Others will have learned how to deal with the stress of caring for a loved one and others how to deal with grieving issues.
As you can see there are a lot of reasons for a relapse and it must be the warning given to your aunt by the doctor who clearly cured her in the first place. He was also said to have told her to avoid a relapse, as each subsequent episode of illness worsens the patient’s situation and, therefore, it is best to avoid multiple episodes of mental illness.