Those with mental health issues often suffer from their symptoms for a long time before seeking treatment – if they ever do so at all. But without addressing them, mental conditions might only get worse.
Without professional help, people may turn to self-medication, abusing drugs or alcohol to escape their problems for a while. Otherwise, symptoms may simply worsen over time, until it might become unbearable.
The sooner mental illness is diagnosed, the easier it becomes to treat. If you are facing mental health difficulties, support and treatment can help you recover, and professionals can help you learn how to deal with it in a way that suits you.
An estimated 120.000 people in Malta live with mental illness. With the effects of a society shaped by COVID-19 for the past year and a half, that number is likely even higher today.
Many go undiagnosed and are left without help due to the fear of stigma and judgement when speaking up is one of the best things you can do. Speaking up about mental health is incredibly important, both for those struggling and those seeking to understand.
“I know my feelings and moods aren’t normal”
A girl in her early teens said she experienced anxiety almost every day for the past two to three years. She also suffered from self-harm and depressive moods for nearly four years. “I am not diagnosed, but this is what I feel like my struggles are,” she said.
When asked about the cause of her issues, she said: “Not to self-diagnose, but it’s probably posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from childhood trauma affecting me in my present experiences.”
At 15 years old, she went to the guidance counsellor at school. “She informed my mum about the self-harm, and referred us to some therapists which my mum failed to take me to.”
“Nowadays when I’m struggling, I talk to my boyfriend who always tries to calm me down. He also offers to pay for a therapist because I am still in sixth form with little income, so I can’t afford it. He does his best to make me smile and I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Her family didn’t manage to help her, and it’s a struggle to get professional help.
“My mother didn’t really bother to contact anyone when she knew how I was. This was two years back. Nowadays I don’t have the income to pay for professional help, and I’m shy to let my boyfriend pay.”
But it’s not just a financial issue: “I’m also afraid my mother would find out and judge me.”
“I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. I feel that people try to minimise the situation and it makes me feel stupid. I know my feelings and moods aren’t normal, and I hate it when people say it is. It makes me feel misunderstood.”
“Others feel like a mountain is being made of a molehill”
A woman in her late thirties suffers from anxiety, aggravated by stress. But she thinks the cause of it are reminders of her past trauma.
“I believe that I also suffer from PTSD, but it is undiagnosed. The episodes are no longer regular, but they are intense and crippling when they happen. When I was going through a particularly stressful part of my life, I experienced these episodes almost daily.”
Her friends and family are supportive, as they have some empathy for the anxiety. But she gets the feeling that people don’t know what to say. “What runs through their head is: everybody gets anxious. I feel like others feel like a mountain is being made of a molehill.”
When reaching out to a professional about her anxiety, they took her seriously. The response was professional and appropriate. But she never got help for her PTSD.
It’s not that she is uncomfortable telling anyone; it is simply too hard for her to talk about the event that caused it in the first place.
“The trauma is so triggering for me that I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. I just referred to it as anxiety. Since I started meditation it’s much better. But I randomly had an episode before I went to sleep this week. It had been months.”
“Fear, humiliation, and lack of understanding”
Another woman in her late twenties was not formally diagnosed, but her anxiety worsened over the past months. She also suffered from suicidal thoughts. The cause are issues in her personal life, and she can’t reach out.
“I clash with my parents. I was going to get professional help, but it’s quite expensive. Then there is fear, humiliation, and lack of understanding. And the ever-present reply: but what can you do?”
“I’m ashamed to speak up”
A man in his early sixties suffers from depression, for which he was diagnosed. He tries to keep himself occupied and he speaks to a therapist.
But he suspects he also has undiagnosed Asperger’s or autism. When asked why he doesn’t reach out about his suspicions, he said: “I’m ashamed to speak up.”
“I was rejected help when I tried to report suicidal thoughts”
A young woman has inattentive ADHD with comorbidities of anxiety and depression, as well as on and off panic attacks. Her family is understanding, but professionals failed to diagnose her.
“I was rejected when I tried to get my ADHD diagnosed and was rejected help when I tried to report suicidal thoughts following my mother’s demise,” she said.
Unfortunately, many suffer from mental illness without getting diagnosed. Things like anxiety and depression often run untreated, because people are afraid to speak out or because they think their issues are minor.
But no matter how small it may seem, mental health issues may get worse in the long run.
It would be shocking if physical health conditions were left uncontrolled that way. Prevent mental health issues from taking over your life by reaching out to someone you trust, whether that is a professional or a close friend.
Getting diagnosed is not the end of the world – it is a new start. Once you are aware of your problems, you can take definitive action to treat them or learn to live with them.
If you are struggling to cope for any reason at all, make sure to reach out to someone you trust. No one should fight these battles alone.
Do you have a mental health story to share? Send it to [email protected].
If you or someone you know needs to talk about their mental health, please call national support service 179. Alternatively, visit www.kellimni.com or Richmond Foundation’s OLLI.chat to get in touch online.
Share this article if you or someone you know struggles with undiagnosed mental health issues.