Does Mental Illness Run in Your Gene?

In the past, mental illness has always been a stigma. Having a mental disorder is like having a tag on yourself. If you have depression and once the rumour spreads, people on the street will avoid you and think, “This person is abnormal. Don’t go near him/her.”. I believe you must have heard such stories from your parents or your grandparents. If you see someone abnormal mentally or physically, avoid them or don’t go near them. It’s a virus.

Is such a statement true? Can we avoid mental illness?

Illnesses can be categorized into three broad groups – inherited, environmental, and complex. Mental illnesses are the same. They can be caused by genetic or environmental, or both.

Rumours said that “The family is crazy. Don’t go near anyone, or you will go crazy too.”

In this statement, Only half of it is true. Viruses like coronavirus do not spread mental illness. Some forms of mental illnesses are caused by genetic factors that run in the family. One such example is schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is heritable, meaning that it runs in the family. However, schizophrenia is also caused by environmental factors that trigger the symptoms.

The most common heritable mental health disorders include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I believe you are familiar with these names or heard them from your friends or families.

Mental health disorders are more common than it seems. In Australia, 1 in 5 people will experience some form of mental disorder in their lifetime. This is as common as one friend having a mental disorder in your friendship group.

You might not believe this. However, this is true.

The past generations have neglected mental health for many years. Having depression in the past was a big talk in the town. It was like the old “coronavirus”. If you have depression and walk on the street, everyone avoids you and does not talk to you. This was the social norm.

Now, people talk about depression and accept that having mental health is normal and is not like having a virus. Different mental health disorders have other causes. Genetic only causes some mental health disorders. Be mindful of your mental health and recognizing that you have mental disorder is important. Don’t be afraid of admitting that you have a mental health issue. Most importantly, most mental disorders can be treated with early diagnosis and proper management.

So, don’t be afraid of speaking out. Be MINDful.

I would love to sending my greatest gratitude to my little sister. This sharing is written by my little sister who is a master student in Genomics and Health. I rarely open up to my family members while I found that I can talk more with them now, especially with my little sister. We like to discuss it from a scientific perspective. She is always the little sunshine in our family and also to me. She has had a strong and optimistic mental since young with her outstanding ability in connecting and maintaining relationships.

We had a conversation about the factors of having depression. Mainly, is about the relationship between mental health and genetic inherent last month. We came to the conclusion environmental factors including the current societal structure, culture, inequalities etc. have become the greater threats to trigger mental illnesses rather than the other factors. The truth is the environmental factors trigger mental illness earlier and earlier in a person’s life today. As we are seeing more youths are struggling with mental illness compared to the past.

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