Do you ever feel stressed? Have you been feeling upset or down in the dumps for days, weeks or months? Do you know someone who is affected by a mental illness? Or is there someone close to you who you expect may be suffering from a mental illness? Today we will discuss mental health and wellness. We will talk about what mental health is, the warning signs and the most commonly seen mental disorders.
Mental health is a popular topic in today's society and especially during the month of January due to Bell Lets Talk Day which was January 31st. Despite it being a popular topic what exactly is mental health? Mental health and wellness includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, it can affect anyone and everyone and should be taken just as seriously as any physical injury or illness. Our mental health affects the way we think, how we feel, how we act, and how we treat ourselves and others. It not only impacts us personally but also has a huge impact on those close to us and around us. Maintaining successful mental activity includes preserving fulfilling relationships with others, performing productive daily activities and also includes the ability to adapt, change and cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Mental health is important during every stage of life from childhood to adulthood and many factors affect and contribute to our mental health, some are listed below:
Biological factors: This includes brain and gene chemistry. Mental illness can occur when the brain or part of the brain is not working well or is working in the wrong way. When this occurs one or more of the 6 major functions of the brain will be altered or disrupted. These functions include: thinking, perception, emotion, signalling, behaviour and physical functions.
Life experiences: Life is a rollercoaster to say the least, we go through changes on a daily basis whether it be physical, hormonal, changes at the work place, at home or school. These changes can impact us on every level causing undue stress and changes both physically, emotionally and socially.
Family history of mental illness: Due to the changes in brain chemistry and biological factors behind mental illness, certain conditions and disorders can run in the family. This is not always the case but is something to keep and eye out for in family members.
Mental illness is rarely if ever caused by stress alone. It is not the consequence of poor parenting or bad behaviour, nor is it the result of personal weakness or deficits in personality, rather it is a combination of genetics and the environment resulting in a disorder of the brain. More often than not mental illnesses begins during childhood and persists into adolescence. Common disorders and conditions found in this age group include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism spectrum disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Disorders that begin more often in adolescence include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and addictions. Some signs and symptoms to look for in yourself or your loved ones which may indicate mental health problems include:
Thinking difficulties or problems focusing attention
Extreme emotional highs and lows
Pulling away from people and usual activities
Having low or no energy
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Smoking, drinking and or using drugs more than usual
Thinking of harming oneself
Inability to perform daily tasks
It is so important to realize that mental disorders can be treated and that there are individuals that are educated and who specialize in mental illnesses. Some important ways to maintain positive mental health include getting professional help if you need, connecting with others, staying positive, helping others, getting enough sleep, meditation, being physically active and developing coping skills.
Just like any health issue maintaining a healthy mind and good mental health takes dedication and time. It is not a quick fix and more often than not it is a lifestyle change which requires more physical activity, positive thinking, better coping skills among other things. That being said it is important to know that not all mental health conditions are the same and treatment and recovery can vary. As mentioned above brain chemistry and biological factors do play a role in some mental illnesses and thus medication is sometime required to help individuals cope with certain conditions.
Listed below are some resources that provide more information on mental health. More resources are out there make sure to take advantage of them!
Anxiety an Phobia Workbook- Edmund J. Bourne
Rewire Your Anxious Brain- Catherine M. Pittman