What is mental health?
Mental health is the health of our minds. This includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects our feelings, thoughts, mood and behavior. As well as how we deal with life’s ups and downs, the choices we make and our relationships with people.
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:
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.
Experiencing Trauma – When you experience a traumatic event, your body’s defenses 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).
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.
Social Factors – As well as the above physical factors, there are a wide range of social factors which can affect your mental health including 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.