FAQ About Mental Health

Some typical mental health issues are described here.


If you or someone close to you is suicidal and has clear intentions to commit suicide, the best course of action is to go to an emergency department and obtain admission to the nearest psychiatric hospital. You can find information on how to do this on this page.

Suicide is a symptom of severe depression and is a reflection of the extreme distress that a person in a depressive state is experiencing. The most important thing is to prevent suicide by admitting the person to a medical or psychiatric facility, keeping them safe from harm and getting immediate treatement for the person’s depressive symptoms.

Many people with depression experience suicidal thoughts that may not include suicidal intention (i.e. a concrete plan on how to commit suicide). This should also be treated immediately, but may not need hospitalisation.

Treatment for severe depression includes medications that can be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist, and psychotherapy. Depression has many different causes, but a common element is that the symptoms of severe depression are all the same. These include: feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts: feeling sad or depressed most days; eating too much or too little; sleeping too much or too little; feelings of worthlessness, feeling guilty, feeling hopeless, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a lack of pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable.

Depression can and should be treated. Most people are able to make a full recovery from depression with the right treatment.


Depression can be experienced in mild, moderate and severe forms.

Severe depression often involves feelings of suicidality, extreme difficulty concentrating (i.e. often an inability to read or perform simple tasks), and severe interruption to normal daily activities, including normal sleeping patterns. A person with severe depression should seek help from a doctor and get a referral to a psychologist or psychotherapist.

Moderate depression has the following symptoms, which are experienced for a period of at least two weeks: feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts: feeling sad or depressed most days; eating too much or too little; sleeping too much or too little; feelings of worthlessness, feeling guilty, feeling hopeless, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a lack of pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable.

Mild depression includes the symptoms above, but they may not be as severe and may have lasted only a few days. Often those with mild depression notice feeling sad and a lack of pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable the most, along with sleep or apptetite disturbance.

Depression can be caused by a number of factors, many of which are increased for those who are migrants to Finland and are coping with a lack of family and friends, feelings of competence, unemployment or underemployment and the struggles of adapting to a new environment and culture. In addition, the lack of sunlight in Finland can cause an increase in the likelihood of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression linked to the long dark winter months.

Reasons that people develop depression include:

  • chronic stress – stress related to work or other life factors that is relentless and untreated (i.e. with exercise or rest), developing into chronic inflammation in the brain, causing serious sleep disturbance and then depression
  • suddenly stopping sports or physical activity – if a person is highly active and very suddenly stops sports or exercise (perhaps due to injury), they are at high risk of depression due to the sudden decrease in serotonin
  • heart surgery – people who undergo heart surgery are at extremely high risk of depression due to the inflammation in their body
  • pain – if a person is experiencing significant daily pain due to body aches, head aches or teeth problem, for example, they will develop depression
  • rejection – social rejection or romantic rejection
  • post-natal depression related to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation and a perceived lack of support

Another common reason to develop depression is when a person starts to reduce their activities and thereby enters the “depression cycle”. The reduction in activities reduces the persons experiences of positive social interaction and feelings of effectiveness and competence, thereby increasing depression and perpetuating the cycle. You can read more about this on an information page about depression here.


An excess of stress can be experienced as a form of mild depression, with common experiences including difficulties with sleeping, normal eating and difficulty relaxing and enjoying life. If excessive stress is left untreated, a person may develop depression.

Treatment of stress can be assisted by a psychologist or psychotherapist. It can often include the following:

  • Discussion of how you can improve your well-being through diet, exercise and social activities
  • Analysis of stress factors in your life
  • Discussion on how you can reduce aspects of your life that are causing you stress
  • Improving resilience through psychological strategies


Anxiety is the psychological condition of worry and fear. There are a number of different anxiety conditions.

Most anxiety conditions are best treated by a psychologist or psychotherapist as the medications for anxiety are not recommended for long term use. A person with anxiety may experience one or more anxiety disorders at a time. Anxiety is a highly common mental health issue and is experienced by up to 20% of the population at some point in their lifetime.

Some examples of anxiety conditions include.

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): It includes constantly thinking about or worrying about the future, worrying about many different aspects of life and being concerned that one is spending too much time worrying.
  • Panic Disorder: A situation in which panic attacks may impact on a person’s life to a significant extent. This usually means more than 2 or 3 panic attacks per month. Panic disorder that affects a person’s ability to go out to places such as a shopping centre is called panic disorder with agoraphobia.
  • Social Phobia: Severe anxiety and avoidance linked to social anxiety and shame.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Anxiety linked to obsessive and compulsive behaviours, often around cleanliness, moral issues, transfer of disease, safety and avoiding accidents.
  • Phobias: fears of certain situations or triggers, such as a fear of heights, enclosed spaces, needles, blood, etc…
  • Health Anxiety – fear that one has different health conditions causing extreme distress and anxiety.


In Finland, you can learn more about mental health issues at this page:

MentaHub (mielenterveystalo.fi/en)

We recommend this webpage for information on treatment of mental health conditions:

Centre for Clinical Interventions: Looking After Yourself