Mental health and chronic illness

When you are caring for somebody who has a chronic (long-term) life-threatening non-communicable disease, such as a cardiovascular disease, it is also important to think about their mental health. However, you may not have thought about the stress experienced by a person who is living with a CVD, or another chronic illness, such as diabetes, cancer, a chronic respiratory disease, or a disability such as blindness, deafness or physical paralysis. Having one of these conditions is stressful for patients and their families, and their mental health can suffer. You should bear in mind that:

  • People with a chronic illness may become sad or depressed about their condition. This can sometimes develop into a mental health problem, e.g. deep depression and suicidal thoughts, especially if they are in pain or their normal life is severely impaired by their illness.
  • On the other hand, people with a severe mental illness are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases or diabetes due to the stressful nature of their disordered mental state.
  • Undetected and untreated depression can make chronic illness worse:
    • Depression can interfere with a person taking their medication correctly and making important lifestyle changes, like improving their diet.
    • Partly as a result of this, when depression AND chronic illness are present together, patients will be more impaired, they will not respond so well to treatment, and they may be at greater risk of dying from their chronic illness.

Therefore, detecting and treating depression and other mental health complications of chronic illness can improve the quality and the quantity of life for people with CVDs and other chronic illnesses.

Last modified: Friday, 4 July 2014, 10:43 AM