HIV and Mental Health

By Adam, January 27th, 2016 in

Today is Bell’s Lets Talk Day.  Let’s Talk Day started in 2010 as an effort to challenge mental health stigma by creating a forum for public discussion about it.  While being an obvious PR stunt, many health care professionals  say that it has helped change the public debate about mental heath.   So, we are doing our bit to raise awareness about mental health and break the stigma surrounding it:

“Mental health” refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from mental Mental Health and HIVillness.  This ratio is much higher when we look at just population of people living with HIV in the country.

Mental health issues are closely linked with HIV. Mental health conditions have been shown to increase the risk of getting HIV. For example, studies estimate that between 5% and 23% of people with chronic mental illness have HIV. This is substantially higher than the estimated 0.2% of Canadians living with HIV in 2011.

People living with HIV (PHAs) are also impacted by mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety. These can result from the diagnosis of HIV and dealing with a complex and stigmatized disease. HIV itself can also produce psychological impacts due to its effects on the central nervous system. Complications can include depression, mania, dementia and others.  At Casey House in Toronto, 80% of Clients living with HIV have mental heath issues.

There are many biological and psychological factors faced by people living with HIV that can from time to time challenge their sense of mental health and emotional well-being. As a person living with HIV, it is important for you to be aware that you have an increased risk for developing mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders. These conditions are treatable. People who experience mental health problems can get better and many recover completely. You can better manage your overall health and well-being if you know how having HIV can affect your mental health and what resources are available to help you if you need it.  We also encourage you to talk to us if you suffer from mental health issues and need help managing it.

For more information on anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression, please click on the link below:

Finally, here are some simple pointers that might not resolve problems but can help you practice positive “emotional and mental fitness”:

  • Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful place
  • Recall the times when you have felt pleasure, comfort, tenderness, confidence
  • Interrupt insistent negative thoughts as they come into your mind by distracting or comforting yourself
  • Forgive – stop letting the past haunt you
  • Exercise
  • Take up a hobby
  • Keep a journal to help gain perspective
  • Pamper yourself – bubble bath, massage, nice meal, etc