Mental illness is a reality. Because of the stigma attached to it, however, people are often afraid of acknowledging that they have a mental illness. According to one study, one in five people in South Africa suffer from a mental illness. Another study says one third of the South African population suffers from depression. Mental illness is only highlighted in the news when famous people commit suicide. Mental illness affects both social and occupational areas of your life. Whether a person suffers from adjustment disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder, both social and occupational areas of a person’s life are affected.Depression and adjustment disorder are the most common. Before a psychiatrist can diagnose someone with a mental illness, the person has to present with symptoms such as despondency, difficulty to express pleasure, too much or too little sleep, a change in appetite, negative or suicidal thoughts, psychotic disturbances or a lack of drive, energy, concentration and libido. Five out of nine of these symptoms must be present before a person can be diagnosed with a mental disorder. The symptoms must also be there for at least two weeks. In most cases, a person will need a psychologist’s counselling and a psychiatrist’s medication. A person cannot just snap out of depression. According to the experts, causes mostly emanate from childhood problems. Experiencing rejection or abandonment as a child will influence your adulthood. It will influence the way you act when faced with conflict. It shapes your character. The way you have been socialised influence the way you act, for example, when there is a conflict. Even if you do not suffer from a mental illness, it is important to actively maintain your mental health.Embrace who you are. Identify the lies you have been told, and believe the truth. Compliment yourself more. Others may say you are boosting your ego, but sometimes this is necessary. People hurt others because they also have their issues. Face your fears, and ask yourself what you are afraid of. Are you afraid of disappointing yourself or others?Do you struggle with being consistent and saying what is on your mind?Sometimes pressure from our parents – my child will become that I could not be. We then do not want to disappoint ourselves or other people. We are not consistent and clear as to what we want to say. Being overworked and stressed can also take its toll on your mental health. To combat this, give yourself a sense of reality by being aware of your senses and using them all. Do not eat while watching television or working on the computer. Chew your food slowly – really taste the flavour. Appreciate the colour and the texture. When you take a bath or shower, be aware of the water on your skin – relax and enjoy the sensation. Do the things you enjoy. Go for a walk and experience nature. Listen to the birds. Be present and aware of your surroundings.Enjoy the gift of life. Our children are walking with their cell phones in their face and the earpiece in their ears. They do not sleep because they are always active on social media. This makes that they do not switch off. It results in anxiety, depression and burn out. If you suspect that you suffer from a mental illness, however, consult your doctor. Many organisations are ready to assist you. Do not be ashamed to admit you need help. It is an illness like any other.Visit TherapyRoute.com to find counsellors, psychologists, social workers, community clinics, and other mental health professionals and services.