Good attitude helps him cope with mental, physical illness
One man's mental condition hurt his physical well-being, but he is recovering well now
His condition affected not just his mental and emotional health but also took a toll on his physical well-being.
Steven (not his real name), 50, who has been suffering from schizoaffective disorder since he was 18, struggled with delusions of grandeur and mood swings.
When he was younger, Steven would have mood swings once a week and need two to three days to recover.
He constantly craved soft drinks, drinking two to three bottles daily.
When he was 40, he was diagnosed with diabetes.
Three years later, he had glaucoma, an eye disease.
Due to his diabetes, Steven would suffer from dry, itchy skin and have very high cholesterol.
"I had to go to the toilet every five minutes. It made me feel depressed and embarrassed," he said.
He felt hopeless, fearing he might go blind from glaucoma or have his leg amputated from diabetes.
"I sometimes hoped I would not live too long," he said.
"Life seemed meaningless."
In more than 30 years, he has worked a variety of jobs. From a waiter, to a factory operator, a security guard, to a cleaner, among others.
Steven's mental illness sometimes affected his work.
He said: "I would lose my temper easily, and many employers would not want to hire me because they knew something was wrong with me.
"I just wish they could have been more understanding."
He is now recovering well from both his mental and physical illnesses with the help of the Singapore Association for Mental Health's Oasis Day Centre.
His mood swings have been reduced to once a month, and he has returned to a regular urinary cycle and is taking regular medication to keep his cholesterol down.
Keeping a positive attitude helped him control his diet and stay away from sweet drinks.
Steven said coping with mental illness is like a four-legged table.
"The four legs are medication, coping strategies, social support and a healthy lifestyle.
"If any one leg is missing, the table becomes unstable."
He believes this is not just the case for mental illness but for physical illness as well.
He said: "A positive mental attitude has helped me not only in my mental illness, but my diabetes as well. I always had hope my diabetes could be treated well. It is important to keep a positive attitude."
Counselling, therapy can help treat mental conditions: Experts
For those suffering from mental conditions, experts encourage seeking help from professionals to manage the condition and prevent escalation, which could lead to physical ailments.
Dr Sharon C. Sung, Duke-NUS Medical School's assistant professor, health services and systems research programme, Singapore, said certain forms of psychosocial interventions, such as counselling or psychotherapy are highly encouraged to treat mental illnesses.
She said: "In many cases, these can be as effective as medication, or even more so.
"For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment recommended by MOH (Ministry of Health) for the treatment of most common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression."
Dr Sung said CBT is based on learning principles and encourages patients to develop more helpful patterns of thinking and acting that can improve their mental well-being.
Experts also encourage a healthy lifestyle, such as a good diet, regular exercise and stress management to prevent the onset of mental health problems and also to maintain good physical health. - CHEOW SUE-ANN
Psychological and physical health cannot be separated
According to the Mental Health Foundation in the UK, there is an increasing call on healthcare professionals to consider psychological well-being when treating the physical symptoms of a condition. And vice versa, despite the two having been for years considered as separate.
Beyond mental conditions making it more difficult for sufferers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, mental distress contributes to stress-related chronic conditions such as cancer, psoriasis and heart disease.
The site added: "People with the highest levels of self-rated distress (compared to lowest rates of distress) were 32 per cent more likely to have died from cancer.
"Depression has been found to be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease."
Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition commonly triggered by stress.
It affects 1.8 million people in the UK and can have an impact on emotional as well as physical well-being.
Papers published on World Psychiatry, the official journal of the World Psychiatry Association, said the physical impact of mental conditions has been proven to affect mortality drastically.
In a 2017 paper, experts wrote: "The 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to ensure that, over the next 15 years, countries make concerted efforts towards economic, social and environmental development that is sustainable and inclusive.
"In order to achieve the goal of universal health and well-being, an important target is to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being."
They added: "While this goal applies to all, there is a need to make a special efforts for the populations that are vulnerable to be left behind.
"One such population is people with severe mental disorders." - CHEOW SUE-ANN & EVAN SEE