What to Know About Mental Health

A study carried out in 2017 by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that at least 792 million people have a mental health disorder. This constitutes of less than 11% of the total world population.

The WHO defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not the absence of a disease or infirmity” (WHO 2001,p.1) .

In fact, wellbeing is a key aspect if mental health but what makes this phenomenon is that some persons who may be regarded as healthy can also be suffering from a poor mental health.

What is mental health?

  A mental health is not the absence if mental illness rather a generally accepted definition describes it as a state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of the society. Universal values in this case includes respect for the environment; respect and care for self and for one another; respect for one’s own and others’ freedom.

 Mental Health involving a dynamic state of internal equilibrium explains the fact the different life situations like Marriage crisis, adolescent crisis, failures can affect a person’s dynamic state. Hence it takes a person of good mental health to be able to experience all these difficult life situations and still be able to restore his dynamic state of internal equilibrium using his basic cognitive and social skills.

A basic cognitive and social skill work hand in hand and are regarded as an essential foundation of mental health in everyday life. Cognitive skills are the ability to pay attention, recall and organize information, make decisions and solve problems. Social skills involve the ability to communicate and interact with in another, both verbally and non-verbally, through body language, gestures and personal appearance.

Another definition of Mental Health according to WHO is:

a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his/her community” (WHO 2001a, p.1).

Causes of mental disorders

A mental disorder also called mental illness is health conditions inviting changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour (or a combination of these two).

 Although the exact cause of Mental Illness is not known, research has shown they are caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.

Biological factors:

These include abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or pathway that connects brain regions.

  • Genetics (some mental disorders can run in families)
  • Infections (brain damage)
  • Substance abuse (cocaine, drugs etc.)
  • Brain injury.
  • Prenatal damage

Psychological Factors

  • Emotional physical or sexual abuse.
  • Loss of a parent or spouse.
  • Neglect

Environmental Factors

  • Divorce
  • Unhappy life and family
  • Loss of a job.
  • Social and cultural expectations.

Symptoms of mental disorders

Each type of mental health has its own unique symptoms but they share some common characteristics such as:

  • Lack of empathy.
  • Forgetfulness, irritability, anger, anxiety, sadness or fright.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Body pains.
  • Fatigue even after enough sleep.
  • Insomnia
  • Constant flashbacks and thoughts.
  • Unable to carry out day to day activities.
  • Feeling lost, hopeless and helpless.
  • Overeating and not enough sleep.

Treatment of mental disorders

Currently, Mental Health treatment does not offer a cure but aims to reduce the symptoms, address underlying causes and make the condition manageable. Common treatments include:

  1. Medications: This may be antidepressants, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety and mood stabilizing medications. Doctors recommended any of these based on the patient’s symptoms.
  2. Psychotherapy: helps mentally ill patients to talk about their feelings, ideas, thoughts and experiences and can also help them with strategies and techniques to manage the symptoms.
  3. Lifestyle treatments i.e. adopting a healthy lifestyle, avoiding drugs and alcohol.
  4. Exercise: This appears therapeutic and helps in boosting the overall health.

Building a Better Mental Health

Anyone can suffer from mental problems but there is no sure way of preventing mental illness. Activities that can keep people mentally well include:

  • Being in a good physical health, eating a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Taking part in local activities.
  • Being part of a family that gets along most of the time.
  • Not relying on technology and social media akin to build relationships.
  • Connecting with people.
  • Being grateful.
  • Paying attention to the present moment.
  • Giving to others.
  • Learning new skills.
  • Having or developing resilience to most life problems.
  • Opening up to someone when in a difficult situation.

Putting all these routines in place with help you feel better. Remember, you don’t have to wait till you are in a crisis before you make your mental health a priority.