Mental health awareness is certainly on the rise these days.
In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. They affect people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures.
These numbers show just how close to home it hits; and statistically someone you care about has experienced or is experiencing some form of mental health disorder.
Even with all this, mental illnesses are still not universally viewed as medical conditions -surprising given mental health disorders are one of the most common types of disorder in Canada.
Will brain scans be able to diagnose mental disorders?
What if there were a blood test or x-ray that showed the physical signs of a mental health disorder – would it seem more real to us then?
While we can’t diagnose mental health issues with the same kind of tests used for other ailments, we can see the changes in the brains of those dealing with certain mental health disorders. A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scan not only clearly shows these changes in brain function, but also how the same people can recover with treatment and their brains can return to normal.
A PET scan is a nuclear medicine imaging test that uses a form of radioactive sugar to create 3D colour images to see how your body’s cells are working. Here’s what a PET scan of what the brain of someone with clinical depression looks like physiologically.
Much of the evidence for the role of specific parts of the brain in psychiatry comes from “brain imaging,” which involves various ways of looking at the brain. PET imaging and functional MRI can measure the activity of the brain which helps usunderstand the areas involved in a psychiatric condition.
Seeing images like this can hopefully help some people realize that mental illnesses are very “real” and have significant effects. These images also show that people can get better with treatment. And remember, you don’t need a scan or other test to prove something is wrong. Talk to someone you trust, it could be a friend, family member or perhaps your family doctor.
No matter what you’re dealing with – know that there is help out there.
Some guys are still hesitant to tell others when dealing with a mental health issue. Maybe some don’t see the connection to how they’re feeling – or maybe they think they can just tough it out. Unfortunately, some might be afraid of what other people will say about them.
Sometimes it takes courage to admit you need help – but everyone needs help from time to time. Things can get better and the first step is reaching out.