RE: “Who is safe from mental illness?” (The New Times, August 17).
People do not inherit mental illness or mental disorders. True, mental disorders have a genetic basis for their occurrence or “inheritance”; however, people inherit the possibility or likelihood that they will at some time in their lives suffer from mental disorder.
This happens when, given the genetic predisposition, vulnerable individuals face the challenges and hardships that are listed in the article.
With or without such challenges, however, some people may still suffer from an episode of mental illness. This happens because our biological system is plastic and can be affected adversely by the sort of stressors listed, without any genetic predisposition.
Today’s research shows that stressors can affect the way our genes direct the biological activities in our bodies, especially in our brains.
Therefore, while some people may have a genetic loading for mental illness, not all individuals that suffer from mental illness are genetically predisposed, or are born with mental illness.
Professor of Psychiatry & Mental Health, Gulu University, Uganda