What It Is and Why You Must Take Care
What It Is and Why You Must Take Care
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral well-being. It has an effect on how we think, feel, and act. A mentally healthy person should be able to act or feel what we call normal. For example, he or she should be able to well cope with the normal stresses of life, relate to others, and make choices in different stages of life.
An absence of good mental health can affect our relationships, the way we act or feel, or even our cognitive abilities. However, it can be the other way round as well. Unhealthy relationships, life stresses, or other factors like depression and anxiety can all affect our mental health.
Every stage of our life, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, demands that we are healthy mentally. Sound mental health promotes the ability to think, act, and feel clear which is so important to be able to enjoy life. And an absence of it can affect our mood, behavior, and thinking, which in turn can lead to serious mental illnesses.
And that is why it is of prime importance that we understand what mental health is and the factors that affect it.
So, this is what this article is about. Here we’ll talk about why sound mental health is important, what the common types of mental illnesses are and what actions you should take to develop psychological resilience and thus stay healthy mentally.
Mental health is one term we use commonly and often in the wrong sense. We generally use ‘mental health’ to mean the absence of mental disorders. But in its true sense, mental health is more than that.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The WHO also goes on to stress that “Mental health is an integral part of our health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.”
From this comprehensive definition of mental health, we see that the way we commonly use the term, i.e. to signify that someone is not suffering from any mental illnesses is apparently wrong. Mental health is much deeper and signifies what we call the common well-being of a person. It is a way of telling how a person acts, thinks, and feels and whether there are any disruptions with that.
So, in other words, we can say that mental health is all about wellness and not about the absence of illness.
The importance of having sound mental health can’t be overemphasized. It is as important as having good physical health and even more than that. If you are mentally healthy you can play your part fully in your family, workplace, or community, and make the most of your potential. All of which are extremely important to enjoy a successful and happy life.
Some people also refer to mental health as emotional health. It is a vital part of our lives and affects our thinking, feeling, and behavior, all of which are determinators of the productivity and effectiveness in our daily actions throughout our lives like school, work, or as a caregiver.
Having said that, developing a mental health issue is not uncommon. Millions all over the world are affected by some type of mental illness each year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness an estimated 1 in 5 adults that is whopping 20% of adults experience mental health issues each year in the US. It also states that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged between 10 and 34.
So, we see it is not only that mental health is of utmost importance but it is equally important that we identify the factors contributing to the disruptions in it and act accordingly.
Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, income, or ethnicity has some risk of developing a mental health issue. There are three major factors, viz. socioeconomic, biological, and lifestyle choices that can affect and shape a person’s mental health.
Socioeconomic factors that can affect a person’s mental health include conditions like:
Also, having limited financial means can mean stress and thus increase the risk of developing a mental disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health also points out that there can be genetic factors behind a person developing a mental disorder. It says that having a history of mental illness in the family can increase the chances for a person to develop mental health conditions.
However, it’s not necessary that not having a family history of mental health issues means that you are not at risk of developing one. Neither does it mean that one with genes linking to mental disorders will develop a mental health issue.
Some lifestyle choices like having poor physical health and doing nothing about it, living alone, poor self-hygiene, and work from home for a long time without interacting with others also increases the chances of developing a mental disorder.
Luckily mental illnesses show early symptoms. The signs and symptoms are of a wide range and might differ according to disorder, circumstances, and other factors. You should be aware of the signs and take action if anyone you know is showing one or all of these symptoms:
It might or might not be that someone who is on the verge of developing a mental illness will show all these symptoms together or all at once. However, you must always be on your toes and if you or anyone else is showing these symptoms, consult a certified medical professional immediately.
Commonly, mental health disorders are broadly classified into three categories:
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Anxiety disorders in a person are marked by severe fear or anxiety relating to certain objects or situations, which he or she might try to avoid continually.
Anxiety disorders are further classified into:
A person with GAD will feel unnecessary or disproportionate worries that disrupt everyday living with or without physical symptoms like fatigue, restlessness, tense muscles, and interrupted sleep.
He or she may experience unnecessary anxiety with everyday situations that do not pose a threat like performing chores or keeping appointments.
A person with a panic disorder experiences sudden panic attacks involving overwhelming terror or fear of imminent death.
A person with a phobia experiences disproportionate fears about certain objects, situations, or scenarios. Phobias can be of different types like simple phobias, social phobia, agoraphobia, and many others.
People with OCD have constant stressful thoughts and powerful urge to do repetitive actions like washing hands.
A person can develop PTSD after going through or witnessing a deeply traumatic event. The stress and lack of control that he or she feels during that event can lead to PTSD.
People with mood disorders experience sudden and significant changes in mood which can constitute periods of elation and periods of depression.
Common types of mood disorders include:
Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are perhaps the most complex type of mental illness and mental health authorities are still trying to figure out whether it is a single disorder or a group of related illnesses.
Schizophrenia patients will often lose contact with reality, having delusional beliefs and hallucinations.
Now comes the million-dollar question. With all the statistics and risks discussed above, how to stay mentally healthy? How to grow that psychological resilience that we mentioned earlier.
While everyone is at some risk of developing a mental illness, there are some tips which when followed helps you develop a healthy mind and reduces the risk of developing a serious mental illness.
These are some tips that you can follow to maintain an overall healthy body and mind. Most of all, it’s important that you maintain your positive attitude by doing more of what you enjoy doing like reading, listening to music, or engaging in sports.
If however, any of the symptoms discussed above are showing, do not delay. Contact an experienced medical professional immediately.
Mental health is of prime importance to maintain a balance between everyday life stresses and enjoy life to its optimum. A person with sound mental health will be able to grow to his/her optimum potential and thus be of quality service to his or her work, family, or community.
On the other hand, poor mental health can be hazardous and makes a person vulnerable to all types of emotional threats. So, it’s extremely important that you be aware of mental health, know the risks, and take action to fight mental illnesses. Be healthy, be safe, and be on guard.