Mental health

explained

A new place to get help with your mental health and wellbeing.

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any year

Types of mental health

Talking about mental health can be confusing – often people think about mental illness and mental health problems when they hear these words. Actually, we all have mental health, and we can be well or unwell, just as with our physical health. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and we need to look after it!

What is mental health and Wellbeing?

Mental health and wellbeing refers to the health of our minds and the quality of our relationships. It affects our feelings, thoughts, moods, behaviour, and our relationships. It also affects how we can deal with life’s ups and downs and our capacity to make helpful choices. It is important to recognise that our mental health is embedded in our relationships with the important people in our lives. Caring, loving and supportive relationships with trusted and nurturing adults and peers support our mental health and sense of wellbeing.   On the other hand, harmful, conflicted or bullying relationships are stressful and threaten our mental health and sense of wellbeing.

(For example, research on Adverse Childhood Experiences, which are stressful and potential traumatic experiences in childhood, and which may include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Parental loss through separation or divorce
  • Parent with marked mental health problems
  • Being victim of harm or abuse or neglect
  • Growing up in household where adults misuse drugs or alcohol

We now know that these experiences in childhood increase the risk of a child or young person experiencing a range of mental health problems. This is why sometimes those helping us, ask us:   “what has happened to you? rather than what is wrong with you?”

Why is it important to look after our mental health?

Because when we have good mental health, we can believe in ourselves, we can work, learn and achieve, and enjoy our social and family lives, and we have the skills to cope when life throws us challenges.

Who does mental ill health affect?

We all have mental health, and we can be well or unwell, just as with our physical health. Your age, gender, sexuality, race, religion or occupation doesn’t make a difference.

How does mental ill health affect people?

How we feel is always changing, just as things around us are changing. Sometimes we are excited and happy; at other times, we feel sad, bored or stressed out. It’s perfectly normal to feel low, anxious or overwhelmed, especially when things are difficult. Mostly these feelings will pass quite quickly, however sometimes they develop into more serious problems and begin to affect our day to day lives. This can happen to anyone and is more common than you think. In fact, 19% of adults, 46% of teenagers and 13% of children experience mental health difficulties.

People can experience any or multiple of the following (among others):

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or inability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

It’s important that if you’re experiencing any of these things that you talk to someone and ask for help. Mental health problems can be treated and getting help and support early can prevent things becoming more serious.

What causes mental ill health?

Just like any physical illness there are a number of different factors which can cause people to suffer from mental ill health, these can include:

Social Factors – there are a wide range of social factors which can affect your mental health including adverse childhood experiences which as mentioned above can play a significant part in your ability to manage you mental health and wellbeing. As well school, work, family, relationships, finances and social media. These affect everyone differently and in different ways, as it depends on your capacity to deal with the situation. For example, school/exam stress may be overwhelming and have a negative impact on your mental health but could be a good motivator to someone else.

Experiencing Trauma – When you experience an Adverse Childhood experience (ACE) it is recognised as a traumatic event-your body’s defences kick in creating a chemical and stress response which helps you respond in the moment. However, following this you can also experience feelings of sadness, anger and guilt which can develop into depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When thinking about these traumatic events it is important to see these as things that have happened to you and to consider how can I make sense of these rather than what is wrong with me. Trusted emotionally available adults can be very helpful in helping us make sense of our feelings, our relationships and our experiences, and give us a sense of hope in moving forward.

Genetics – Common psychiatric disorders Such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), clinical depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may be inherited from family members.

Brain Chemistry – Having a chemical imbalance in the brain, either having too much or too little of certain chemicals such as norepinephrine and serotonin, can cause mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder

Brain Structure – A range of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar and depression actually stem from the same part of the brain. Specifically linked to the loss of grey matter, which causes problems with processing information, making rational decisions and dealing with emotions.

Other Medical Conditions – Our physical and mental health are linked. People who live with a long-term physical condition such as diabetes or asthma are also likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Need help now?

If you need to speak to someone urgently call your GP or family doctor!

or

NHS 24/7 helpline : 0800 038 5300
Childline up to 19 yrs: 0800 1111
The Samaritans: 116 123
In an emergency go to A&E or call 999