What is Mental Health? (2024)

Mental health is more than just the absence of a mental disorder; it’s the ability to manage stress and other factors that impact your quality of life.

Stigma around mental illnesses erodes confidence in people to seek needed treatment and prevents many from getting the care they need. This impacts their physical and emotional well-being, as well as relationships, career, education and overall quality of life.

Definition

Mental health is a state of well-being where an individual realizes their own abilities, copes with the normal stresses of life, and works productively and fruitfully.

Mental illness is a medical condition that causes significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior (and a combination of these). It can be distressing and may affect functioning in social, work or family activities.

A definition of mental health is important to help people understand what's going on with them and to find ways to treat it or recover from it. It can also be used to develop strategies to protect and promote mental health in communities.

Symptoms

Every person goes through changes in their mood, thinking and behaviour from time to time. But when these changes start to make it harder for them to function normally, they may be signs of a mental health disorder.

Depression and anxiety are common conditions that can affect everyone at some point in their lives. Signs of depression can include feelings of sadness, irritability or loss of interest in things that once made you happy.

Anxiety disorders can cause extreme worry and stress. They can also cause physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, sweating, trembling or diarrhoea.

Other disorders can be treated with medication or psychotherapy. These therapies can help to improve symptoms and regain some normalcy in people’s lives.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatments available for mental health problems. These include medicines, psychotherapy (talk therapy), support groups and coping techniques.

Medicines can help ease symptoms of mental illness by boosting the body's absorption of feel-good chemicals in the brain. They also relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Psychotherapy can improve self-awareness and help people cope with their condition. It can also promote emotional growth and change behaviors that are negative or dysfunctional.

Sometimes, medications are used in combination with psychotherapy to increase the effectiveness of treatment. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotic drugs and mood-stabilizing medications.

Other types of treatments include inpatient care in a psychiatric hospital or residential treatment program, which gives patients a place to stay while receiving support. This is usually recommended when people cannot care for themselves properly or when they are in danger of harming themselves or others.

Prevention

Mental health prevention aims to reduce the number of people with mental health problems. This is often done by promoting good mental health in the community.

This can be through campaigns to stop stigma against people with mental health conditions, such as Mental Health Awareness Week or by teaching young children about emotions and mental ill-health. It also includes addressing issues that increase someone’s risk of developing a mental health problem, such as bullying and long-term physical health conditions.

Research has shown that at least 21% of the burden of disability and premature death stemming from mental illnesses is preventable. Despite this, there are still many challenges in reducing the impact of mental illnesses.

What is Mental Health? (2024)
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