What do we think about the mental health of ourselves and others? How do we respond to those around us who struggle with mental health issues? This piece briefly looks at mental health and mental illnesses and the stigma surrounding them.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as, “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his/her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his/her community”
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects the way we think, feel, and act. It also helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
Mental health is vital at every stage of life from early childhood to adulthood including adolescence. Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Shannor Purser once stated that, “Mental health affects every aspect of your life. It’s not just this neat issue you can put into a box”.
We often use the term ‘mental health’ to refer to the absence of mental disorder. However, mental health is really about ongoing wellness and happiness. Possessing positive mental health allows you to effectively deal with the daily stresses of life, communicate well with others, make healthy decisions, work productively and live life to the fullest. On going wellness also does not require denial of emotions and feelings of anger, sadness and frustration. On the contrary, positive mental health allows one to process such feelings in a productive manner.
There are many ways to maintain positive mental health. Obtaining professional help if needed, connecting with others, getting physically active, helping others, having enough sleep and developing coping skills are some examples to maintain a healthy state of mind.
Though maintaining mental health is vital for living a happy and healthy life, in recent times, millions of people struggle with mental illness that leave them feeling hopeless, helpless and alone. Many turn to alcohol and drugs to numb this pain and cope with the mental conditions they face. They experience severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships; feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried or scared, yelling and fighting with family and friends are some of the signs of mental illness.
Poor mental health conditions are often caused by social change, unhealthy lifestyle, social exclusion, work stress, human right violations, gender discriminations, family problems, conflicts, problems in marriage, unemployment problems, lower academic performance, low financial and economic conditions. Trauma/ abuse and family history of mental health problems too contribute to the lack of mental health.
There is often a stigma surrounding those who struggle with mental illnesses. Anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders and emotional disorders in children, bipolar affective disorder, depression dissociation & dissociative disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, Psychosis Schizophrenia and traumatic stress disorder are some common mental issues that need treatment. Talking about such conditions and treatment must be normalised so that the fear of being labelled as mental illness will not prevent people from obtaining the help they require.
Social media is one of the platforms that can be used to create awareness around mental health, the stigma around those with mental illness, the necessity to show compassion and support for those who struggle and the available treatment options.
By Fathima Nuha