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Mental Health Issues

Mental health conditions, going once... Going twice...Oh, you already have them? Do not worry, so do I!

Mental health conditions are more frequent than most people realize. Life by itself can cause mental health issues for almost everybody. The conditions may not last long for some individuals, whereas others may battle with the conditions for years. Being HIV positive increases the likelihood of developing a mental health condition.1

Mental health stigma

Most people do not openly discuss mental health conditions even if they do have them. There is a societal stigma when it comes to mental illness, just like the societal stigma of being HIV positive.

In a way, the stigma behind both conditions comes from fear and a lack of information or understanding. The problem with there being a stigma around mental illness is that it can prevent individuals from seeking help, even when they know they should.

Major depressive disorder and anxiety

A variety of studies have shown that mental health disorders are more prevalent in individuals with HIV than the general society.

A multisite US study with over 2800 people who were HIV positive found that 36 percent had major depression and 15.8 percent had generalized anxiety disorder.1 This compares to the general population, where 6.7 percent have major depression and 2.1 percent have generalized anxiety disorder.1 There is a big difference between those percentages.

A review of electronic medical records in Canada showed that 41 percent of people living with HIV had a mental health condition instead of the 22 percent of people without HIV.1

My personal mental health journey

When I was diagnosed with HIV, I was one of the individuals who did not know much about HIV. It felt like the diagnosis knocked all the wind out of me. I felt like my future was over basically.

Before I left the hospital, I was placed on my first anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. Unfortunately, the medication combination that I was started on was not strong enough for my depression and anxiety. This caused me to go into a very dark place.

I realized that I needed better help

Things got so bad for me that I planned to end my life. My best friend interrupted my plan and helped me realize that I needed to get better help.

By the time I went to see a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety with agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I still have these mental health conditions and I am not ashamed. This is a part of who I am now.

I am a work in progress

To this day, I take an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, antianxiety medication, and, at night, a sedative. I also see a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

It has been years since my diagnosis, but I am finally starting to feel normalcy. To me, there is no shame in the fact that I need these medications to feel stable while I am working on cognitive therapy. All I can say is that I am a work in progress!

Do you have experience with mental health conditions? What do you think about the stigma issue?

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