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What Mental Health Entails

Anifar is an experienced writer. She would like to share about what mental health entails.

What is Mental Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)

Mental health refers to “ a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.

Mental health is very crucial especially to individuals since it enables one to fully understand things around them both internally and externally. This promotes a healthy relationship among people in the community and contributes positively to the development of the community both socially, economically, and physically.

In reference to the Society for Health Education and Promotion Specialists(SHEPS, 1997), Mental health also involves feeling positive about oneself and others, feeling glad and joyful, and loving. Mental health like mental illness is also affected by biological, social, psychological, and environmental factors. The individual at the core functioning is surrounded by the social world- in the proximal world, it will include family, kinship, employers, peers, colleagues, friends, and in distal context, society, and culture.

The interaction between individuals and society is crucial in building healthy communities, which in turn can promote mental health.

Mental Health is Vital.

Mental Health is Vital.

Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going."

— Noam Shpancer, PhD

Causes of Mental Health problems

Mental health problems can be a result of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. An individual can be affected by one or two factors that can lead to mental illness. This can differ from one person to another.

For instance, the following are factors that can lead to mental health problems:

  • Physical factors such as brain injury or conditions such as epilepsy can affect your behaviors and moods.
  • Unemployment or losing a job that you really depended on can cause serious mental health problems due to constant worries and stress on where to start after losing what was so important to you.
  • The use of drugs and substance abuse can lead to mental health problems.
  • Domestic violence especially to young children when exposed to such an environment that is full of fights, bullying, or other abuse.
  • Experiencing Trauma as an adult e.g., military combat or being a victim in a serious accident that you feared for your life, or being a victim of a crime such as murder.
  • Lack of housing and poor parenting of children.
  • Losing someone that was so dear to you.
  • Experiencing discrimination, stigmatization, and racism.
  • Childhood neglect, abuse, and trauma.
  • Being isolated because you have something that people don’t want to associate with you leads to loneliness.
  • Being in serious debt, social disadvantage, or poverty.
  • Having severe stress or long-term stress.
  • Long-term physical health conditions.
  • Research also shows that mental health problems can be hereditary. If it runs in a family then automatically there are high chances of members of that family being affected. It is passed on in families through genes. It is believed that mental illnesses have a link to abnormalities in many genes. These genes react differently to the environment and individuals.
  • Certain infections such as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder(PANDAS) are associated with brain damage and the development of mental disorders or may accelerate its symptoms. Streptococcus bacteria being part of the (PANDAS)disorder, it leads to the development of the obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental problems in children.

"Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone."

— – Lisa Olivera

Mental Health Conditions

Mental illness is a condition that affects how someone feels, acts, and behaves. These conditions are associated with how an individual relates with others and how they carry out their day-to-day activities.

Mental health conditions are very common among people. This is something that should not make you scared since you are not the only one affected and also there are many ways you can apply to cope up with the situation you are experiencing if it is identified at an early stage.

Statistics show that:

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness starts by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.
  • 1 in 5 U.S adults experiences mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S youths aged between 6-17 experience a mental disorders each year.
  • 1 in 20 U.S adults experiences mental illness every year.


"I cannot stand the words ‘Get over it’. All of us are under such pressure to put our problems in the past tense. Slow down. Don’t allow others to hurry your healing. It is a process, one that may take years, occasionally, even a lifetime – and that’s OK."

— — Beau Taplin

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Types of Mental Health Disorders

The following are types of mental health disorders that one may suffer from:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

1. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects less than one percent of the U.S population and it causes people to interpret real things in an abnormal way. Research shows that schizophrenia can be a result of a combination of physical, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.

Schizophrenia is identified with symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, thinking problems, and lack of motivation.

Since it is not a common disorder like other mental illnesses, it can be chronic and disabling. Victims of this disorder have often experienced problems at work, in school, in society, and in relationships. This disease has no cure but it can be controlled with proper treatment.

People believe that schizophrenia is a split or multiple personalities. However, it involves a psychosis, where a person cannot tell what is real from what is not real. These people sometimes lose touch with what is real and they become confused to an extent that they cannot differentiate between images, sounds, or even thoughts.

Their behaviors towards what they think and perceive may be frightening. They can hit themselves on hard objects causing injuries or they can even become so energetic that can lead to the destruction of property or lead them to do other things.

Signs of Schizophrenia according to research develop between the ages of 16-30. It has both positive and negative symptoms.

Related: Find more about Schizophrenia here

2. Mood Disorders

Mood disorders can also be referred to as affective disorders or depressive disorders. They mainly affect mood changes either mania, high energy, and joy, or sometimes depression. Moods disorders include:

  • Major depression

People affected with major depression suddenly experience a low mood and lose interest in activities that they enjoyed most. They can feel long-term sadness or extreme sadness.

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD)

This condition is more experienced in countries far from the equator and it is triggered by early spring months, winter, and reduced daylight during fall.

  • Bipolar Disorder

An individual with bipolar disorder experiences extraordinary changes in terms of mood, energy levels, activity levels, and the urge to continue with their daily lives.

3. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness according to Anxiety and Depression of America. Those who have these conditions fear encountering certain objects or situations that may trigger anxiety in them. The following are examples of anxiety disorders.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD)

GAD is characterized by too much worry or fear that lead to disruption of daily activities.

There are also physical symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration, restlessness, tensing of muscles, and interrupted sleep.

Anxiety may come when an individual is doing his or her daily activities that do not pose danger e.g., House chores. Sometimes anxiety in GAD individuals may come without any trigger

  • Panic Disorders

Panic disorder is a mental and behavioral disorder, specifically an anxiety disorder caused by reoccurring unexpected panic attacks. They include symptoms such as fear that is accompanied by palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, and premonitions

  • Phobias

Phobia is an overwhelming fear of specific objects, places, situations, feeling, or an animal. They develop when one has an exaggerated sense of danger about a situation or object.

Types of Phobias

1. Simple Phobia

This involves fear of certain things such specific objects, animals like cats or dogs or scenarios.

2. Social Phobia

It is also known as social anxiety. This refers to the fear of being a victim of judgment by others. People with social anxiety usually avoid being exposed to social environments or where people are too many.

3. Agoraphobia

This refers to the fear of situations that seem difficult to escape or help might not be there if things go astray, for example, being in an elevator or airplane.

Phobias may be of different types and are very personal. What seems scary to me can be scarier to another person.

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)

This is a disorder in which people experience recurring, unwanted thoughts or ideas also referred to as compulsions that make them feel like doing things repetitively in other words compulsions . Behaviors such as handwashing and cleaning repeatedly automatically interferes with a person’s daily activities.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People with this disorder have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their past experiences. This feeling comes after the traumatic events have ended and they tend to relieve the thoughts through flashbacks or nightmares. They may feel sadness, anger and detached from other people.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions

In reference to National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI), "trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of mental illness isn’t always easy. There is no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of physical illness".

Since mental illnesses differ from one person to another, each one of them has its own symptoms. The major signs and symptoms of mental illness both in adults and adolescents include:

  • Having suicidal thoughts.
  • Difficulty in carrying out daily activities normally and managing stress.
  • Sudden fear of gaining weight or concerns about your appearance.
  • Frequent abuse of drugs and substances e.g., alcohol, bhang.
  • Increased sicknesses without a specific cause e.g., constant headaches.
  • Having difficulties in differentiating reality from imagined thoughts.
  • Changes in sex drive(can be either lower or higher than normal).
  • Change in eating habits e.g., increased appetite or loss of appetite.
  • Change in sleeping times.
  • Finding problems in relating and communicating with people around you.
  • Isolating yourself from others.
  • Difficulties in concentrating at work, in school, or in doing other activities.
  • Being irritated and angry often.
  • Being stressed and worried all the time.
  • Feeling sad and low at times.
  • Extreme mood changes.

Young children can also be affected with mental health conditions and below are signs and symptoms of early mental illness.

  • They may experience frequent nightmares.
  • They become disobedient suddenly.
  • They experience frequent temper tantrums.
  • Their performance in school starts changing.
  • They become excessively worried, lose interest in school and develop fighting behaviors when provoked.
  • They develop hyperactive behavior.


Mental health disorder diagnosis is a multi-step process that needs ample time. Doctors actually cannot judge that you are mentally ill by just looking at you. They begin by checking your medical history and performing physical examinations on you to find out what really can be the cause of the symptoms.

There is no medical test that has been proven to diagnose mental disorders. Doctors may however do some series of laboratory tests such as imaging exams and bloodwork screens for other possible causes that may be hidden.

A psychological evaluation may also be done on a mentally ill patient. This may include asking about symptoms, experiences, and how this has influenced their lives. Sometimes, there can be filling questionnaires for the doctor to get the patient's thoughts, feelings, and behavior changes.

For diagnosis, most doctors use the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical of Mental Disorders(DSM-5).

Patient diagnosis.

Patient diagnosis.


Mental illness can be treated using various methods. This can vary from one person to another since not all treatments can work on you. What works for me cannot work for someone else.

Patients with mental illness need to work hand in hand with their medical specialists in order to get the best out of the treatment they are being offered.

Some of the treatments for mental ill health include:

1. Self-help

A person struggling with mental problems may need a change in their lifestyle so as to improve their mental wellness.

Changes such as eating a balanced diet, increasing sleeping hours, and reducing alcohol intake can be very helpful. Taking some time out of work to go and relax, meet friends and mend broken relationships can be a great relief to your mental health.

Having a large network of close and trusted friends, and family and involving yourself in self-help groups is great medicine for your mental illness.

2. Medication

We cannot say that prescribed medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics can completely cure mental disorders. However, they can help in improving social interaction which was once lost and some of these medications may also boost the body’s chemicals e.g., serotonin from the brain which is important for your mental health.

3. Psychotherapy

This treatment helps specialists in understanding the cause of the patient’s mental illness and begin to work on more remedies that can help the patient to live in harmony with others and themselves reducing the risk of isolation and self-harm.

These treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT), Exposure Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. They are carried out by psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists.

Related: Find more about psychotherapy here

How Can I Maintain Mental Health?

Being mentally stable doesn’t mean that you cannot get mentally ill. Mental disorders can be triggered by small things that we assume and its high time everyone to be on the look out to prevent mental illness or manage it if you are already suffering from it. Doctors are there to help you cope with your situation but they cannot do everything for you. It calls for a personal responsibility. The following are some ways how to maintain your mental health.

  • Be active and eat well balanced diet.
  • Whenever you are stressed up, talk to your close friends about it.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Have enough sleep.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption and avoid illicit drug abuse.
  • Take time to go out and relax your mind.
  • Listen to cool music whenever you feel stressed to calm you down.
  • Express your feelings whenever you feel disturbed.
  • Watch interesting movies such as comedy that can make you laugh .
  • Involve yourself in activities you love most.
  • Spend time with your friends and family.
  • Develop new skills whenever you are idle and challenge your capabilities.

Why is mental health important?

Your mental health should be a priority. What happens when you are mentally unstable or ill? It is obvious that you are not going to be the great person that you thought you were. This is the reason we should be more concerned with our mental health.

Reasons Why We Should Take Care of Our Mental Health

  1. Good mental health increases productivity especially in your business or at work.
  2. Mental health affects the quality of life.
  3. Mental health reduces suicidal thoughts.
  4. Mental health enables us to improve our self-esteem and know our worth.
  5. Mental health reduces cases related to rape, theft, etc.
  6. Mental health plays an important role in building strong relationships among friends, family, and colleagues at work.
  7. Mental health is a relief to physical health such as heart disease.


We should all play part in guiding our mental health at all times. Remember, when you become mentally ill, you will be unable to do your activities as usual and this may lead to low production and a burden to others. If you feel you may have an occurring mental illness, let it be your responsibility and concern to find ways how to fight it

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