07 February 2009

Hope for those trapped in unreal world

Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is a thought disturbance and the major symptoms are hallucinations and false beliefs.

Several factors are involved in mental illnesses. A person may be genetically predisposed or may have some problems in his brain neurotransmitters. The mental illness may result from brain trauma or injury, or may be triggered and perpetuated by environmental factors such as substance abuse.

Advice to families

If you have a family member suspected of suffering from any of these maladies, Ponio said the most important thing the family needs to do is to educate themselves about the illness of their loved one.

“This is the reason we invite them to attend Family Link for them to learn from people in recovery. If that is not possible, there are many other sources of information, Ponio said.

Health workers, especially doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and even the Internet can provide valuable information.

“If their loved ones are already undergoing treatment or are being attended to by a doctor (psychiatrist), they should not be embarrassed to ask questions because that is the only way that they can help,” Ponio said.

She reiterated that mental illness like any medical condition can be treated and recovery is possible. “Stella is just one example. There are, and there will be, many others like her.”

Poor families who have no budget for therapies can go to the National Center for Mental Health at Nueve de Pebrero in Mandaluyong City, or to many other tertiary government hospitals that offer affordable psychiatric services. They can also look for the Philippine Mental Health Association in their area and they can get its services for free.

Ponio revealed, however, that more mental health professionals are needed. “We definitely need more psychiatrists (nationwide, there are only about 400) and this is the reason I always emphasize that it is always a team that needs to work together to help because we psychiatrists cannot do everything that need to be done,” she said.

According to the data obtained by the Inquirer, the World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, major depression will be the second leading cause of disease burden in the world.

The WHO Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department provided the following 2006 data:

• There were 450 million people worldwide suffering from mental, neurological and behavioral problems.

• Seventy million people suffered from alcohol dependence.

• Twenty-four million had schizophrenia.

• Ten to 20 million people attempted suicide and 873,000 actually died from it.

For those interested to sponsor a scholar or for scholarship inquiries, call Family Link Philippines at 643-6056, 640-8395 or 6435788, local 110.

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