Module 1: Understanding Mental Illness
This module took a brief look at understanding mental illness to include mood, anxiety, psychotic, and substance-related disorders. An excellent infographic was presented to help understand mental illness on a scale of healthy, reacting, injured, and ill.
Stress is not a mental illness but chronic stress can lead to anxiety disorders. Burnout was noted to be persons who are disengaged, whose emotions are blunted, are feeling helpless, lacking motivation, ideals and hope which, all can lead to depression. A study by Dr. Andrea Jones-Bitton at the University of Guelph, noted in Farmer Burnout in Canada, that 12% of Canadian farmers were in the burnout profile.
Mood disorders can include depression, bipolar and suicide disorders.
Mood Disorder Signs & Symptoms may include:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sleep problems
- Increased fatigue
- Increased Agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide
Bipolar Signs & Symptoms may include:
- Extreme Mood swings between depression and mania
- Mania (Elevated mood, grandiose ideas, rapid speech, lack of insight, increased energy)
Suicide Ideation Signs and Symptoms may include:
- Expressing negative self-comments
- Expressing intent to die by suicide
- Telling final wishes to someone
- Giving away prized possessions
- Loss of interest in friends, hobbies, etc.
- Repeated expressions of hopelessness, helplessness or depression
To assess suicide risk, use the acronym A.G.E.S.
A – Access the risk of suicide or harm;
G – Give reassurance and information;
E – Encourage the person to get professional help; and
S – Supports.
Anxiety disorders may include general anxiety, panic attack, obsessive compulsive and PTSD disorders.
Those who experience anxiety may experience physical and psychological signs and symptoms; more is involved than just mental reactions but can affect the entire health system.
Experiencing a panic attack may include suffering from more than 4 physical signs and symptoms for more than 10 minutes and may feel intense fear that may be inappropriate to the situation at hand.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) signs and symptoms may include reexperiencing the trauma, feeling uneasy, avoidance behaviour, reduced interest in the outside world, persistent increased arousal, jumpy, irritable, outbursts, and insomnia.
Substance related disorder signs and symptoms may include decrease in work habits, sudden mood swings, sudden change in personal habits, sudden change in minor mistakes or accidents, and sudden weight loss. Risk factors that may lead to substance related disorders on the farm include high stress, boredom or repetitive tasks, being isolated or in a remote area, long work hours, shift work and lack of advancement. Those with substance related disorders may use hallucinogens, depressants and stimulants. It is interesting to note that alcohol is a depressant and caffeine and nicotine are stimulants.
It is noted that psychological health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community.
As noted in the Farm Safety Cultivating Your Way to Burnout Webinar in July, fatigue can have a significant effect on one’s mental health and it was also noted in this webinar the impacts of sleep hygiene.
Final word: “No health without mental health.”
Farm Family Support Center
The Farm Family Support Center is a member assistance program by Morneau Shepell. Farmers and their families have access to up to 3 hours of service at no cost. The service is supported by Farm Safety Nova Scotia and is confidential. Your information is not shared with the NSFA or FSNS.
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