Mental Health is a core component of overall health and is related to emotional well-being, learning, resilience and social and family connections. It is also a key aspect of an individual’s ability to live their life with happiness and hope, and contribute to their community.
People who are mentally healthy are able to cope with life’s stresses, work productively and enjoy their relationships, all while ensuring they have the support they need when they need it. Mental health is a crucial part of life and, just like physical well-being, it can be affected by many different factors.
Mental illness can be characterized by significant changes in a person’s thoughts, emotions and/or behaviour. These symptoms can make it hard for them to function at home, at work and in their communities. A person’s mental health can be improved through psychotherapy, medication or other treatments. Some people with a mental illness may not seek help because of the stigma, lack of knowledge about available services and/or the cost of care.
The global burden of mental illnesses — such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorders – is enormous and growing rapidly. But the resources allocated to this area of health care are insufficient and inequitably distributed, resulting in a gap in treatment that affects nearly 70% of people with these conditions.
A person’s mental health is shaped by a complex interplay of risk and protective factors. Some of these factors are at the individual level and include a person’s genes, their lifestyle choices and their environment. Others are at the societal level and can include economic downturns, disease outbreaks, humanitarian crises, forced displacement and climate change.
Some common mental health conditions are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or depression. Anxiety disorders can also be extremely disruptive and include specific phobias, panic attacks or generalized anxiety disorder.
People with these disorders can often feel a range of feelings including fear, sadness and guilt. They may also have trouble concentrating, sleeping or making decisions. These problems can cause distress for a person and interfere with their daily life, but they are treatable.
There are many ways to get help and support for a mental health issue. It is important to talk to friends, family and health professionals. They can provide support and advice, or refer a person to a specialist service. The first step is often to find out more information, for example from a website such as Qlife or an organisation that provides support to people living with sexuality and gender diversity (LGBTIQA+). It can also be helpful to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. This can be a GP, counsellor or other health professional. There are also many organisations that offer anonymous and confidential support, for example, the Samaritans. It is also important to remember that a person’s mental health can improve and deteriorate over time. This is sometimes known as a “bounce” or an “ups and down”. This is normal.