What is health?

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

What is the mind?

Mind is a phenomenon which perceives, thinks, recognises, experiences and reacts to the environment.
The mind is described as having two main aspects: clarity and knowing; meaning that the mind is clear, formless and allows for objects to arise in it, and that the mind is knowing, an awareness, a consciousness which can engage with objects.

Does the mind and body interact?  

Let us compare our body and mind to a computer. In this simile, the body is the hardware and the mind is the software.
As mentioned above, the mind is defined as a phenomena which perceives, thinks, recognises, experiences and reacts to the environment, not unlike computer software. Although software needs to be imprinted or registered in something like the hard-drive before it can do anything, in itself, a program represents a lot of thinking by the software manufacturer. Without software (mind), the hardware (body) is just a 'dead thing'. The hardware (body) is of course important in what the computer can do; how fast it is, which programs can be run, and how the computer can interact with the world. However good the hardware is, it can ultimately only perform what the program 'knows'.
The software needs to use the 'senses' of the hardware, like the keyboard, the mouse, a video camera, a modem etc. to receive 'input'; just like the mind needs the senses that receives the 'input' of the outside world.

Is there a difference between physical illness and mental illness?

No. Psychiatric illnesses occur due to chemical and/or structural changes in the brain. Suffering from a psychiatric illness is no different from suffering from heart disease or diabetes.

If so, Why do We use the term "Mental Illness"?

Two reasons:
1. Chemical and/or structural changes in the brain can lead to abnormalities in one's mental state - due to mind body interaction
2. Psychological stress is a major risk factor for the development of psychiatric illnesses in individuals.

What is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders, which includes various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual disorders. The term was first coined by the German physician Johann Christian Reil in 1808. The word psyche comes from the ancient Greek for soul or butterfly

Who is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medically qualified doctor who specializes in psychiatry and is certified in treating mental disorders. All psychiatrists are trained in diagnostic evaluation and in psychotherapy.

What is the difference between Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

The main difference between them is that psychiatrists are medically qualified doctors. Psychologists are not medically-trained professionals, and they are primarily concerned with the study of how people think, act, react and interact.

How common are psychiatric illnesses?

Psychiatric disorders are very common. 1 in 4 individuals will suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder at some point in their life. In other words, they are as common as cancer. Globally, an estimated 300 million people are affected by depression.

What are the common psychiatric disorders?

Depression, Bipolar affective disorder, Anxiety disorders, Schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses, Alcohol and substance abuse, Dementia, Personality disorders etc.

Do only certain people suffer from sychiatric illnesses?

No. Anyone, irrespective of sex, age, financial status, intelligence, race, religion can suffer from a psychiatric disorder.

Is there a link getween suicide and psychiatric disoredrs?

Yes. Each year approximately 1 million people commit suicide globally. Approximately 90% of those who commit suicide suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

What causes people to suffer from psychiatric illnesses?

Psychiatric illnesses are caused by chemical and/or structural changes in the brain. This may be due to:
1. Primary chemical and/or structural brain changes, which can have a genetic basis.
2. Diseases occurring in other organs . eg: Thyroid dysfunction, anaemia, low body salt levels etc.
3. Environmental risk factors eg: Psychological stress, illicit drug use (cannabis), traumatic brain injury ect.

What are the common signs and symptoms of psychiatric pathology?

This would depend on the disorder. In general, common signs and symptoms include:
low mood, lack of energy, insomnia. loss of appetite, medically unexplained physical symptoms, fear, sexual dysfunction, lack of insight, hallucinations and delusions ect.

Can psychiatric disorders be successfully treated?

Yes they can. Psychiatry is one of the most rewarding medical specialities at present. If one follows medical advice with regards to treatment and environmental manipulation, most conditions can be successfully treated.

What are the treatment options available?

Medication, Psychological therapies, Electro-convulsive therapy, rTMS, Neurosurgery

Are modern drugs safe and effective?

If taken according to strict medical advice modern medicines are extremely effective and safe, with minimal side effects. Since there are so many to choose from it is important to discuss each case with the psychiatrist before embarking on treatment. It is also very important to understand that medication or other physical therapies alone will not be effective unless  they are combined with lifestyle and mindset changes that facilitate recovery and well being.

How long do I need to take medication for?

This would depend on your diagnosis, other lifestyle factors etc. Medication should never be discontinued or changed without the approval of your doctor.

What else can help?

Minimise psychological stress: craving leads to suffering! Its very simple - the more you let go the better you feel. Craving, ignorance and hatred defile the mind and directly lead to high levels of psychological stress, which in turn gives rise to a diseased body. People with high levels of stress and psychiatric pathology are more likely to suffer from a host of diseases, including, ischaemic heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Stilling the mind, ie. meditation offers great benefit. However, it is important to understand that such practices should be undertaken under proper guidance and, in the presence of good health. Always seek medical advice at first if you are undergoing treatment for mental health issues before embarking on meditation.

Eat healthily. A diet rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids can be beneficial
Engage in physical exercise regularly
Stop smoking
Avoid alcohol
Dedicate some of your time to healthy hobbies and relaxation
Do not bottle up your problems - talk to someone you trust and can help
Seek medical advice if required