Mental health refers to one’s cognitive or emotional well-being, dealing with how we think, behave and feel. A person may be considered mentally healthy if he isn’t suffering from any mental disorder. Your mental health can influence your quality of life, relationships and even physical health. The USA has the highest incidence of mental health disorder in the developed world.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Thus, WHO stresses upon that it isn’t merely the absence of mental disorders that constitutes mental health.
A mental disorder/illness is a psychological or behavioral pattern that is found to emerge in an individual, causing distress or disability. The most common forms of mental illness are: anxiety disorders (panic disorders, phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress etc.), mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia), schizophrenia disorders. These are the most common but not necessarily the most lethal. The most serious mental disorders are Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. These tend to have symptoms that come and go, meaning the person can lead a normal life between episodes of illness.
Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, research has found that many of these conditions are caused as a result of certain physiological, biological and environmental factors. The biological factors include genetics (heredity), infections, brain injury, parental damage etc. Psychological factors include severe trauma, inability to relate to others, early loss of parent, neglect etc. Environmental factors consist of certain triggers that can cause mental illness. Some of them are poverty, death, divorce, dysfunctional family, low self-esteem, loneliness etc.
Some of the common symptoms of mental disorders are: drug abuse, inability to cope with daily problems and activities, changes in sleeping and/or eating habits, frequent physical illness, negative thoughts, loss of appetite, defying authority, stealing or damaging property, outbursts of anger, drop in performance in workplace, excessive worrying or anxiety, hyperactivity, regular nightmares, hallucinations etc.
Mental illness can occur to anyone and but there are treatments available for most of these disorders. However it’s found that a treatment that works for individual may not work for another. Simple lifestyle changes like cutting alcohol consumption, better diet, regular exercise, adequate rest etc can go a long way in improving one’s mental health. Studies show that exercise helps reduce schizophrenia symptoms, improves self-esteem, and relieves depression. Fatty acids present in our food are the building materials for neurons in the brains. A new study has found that a moderate consumption of alcohol may aid mental health in some cases. However problems with alcohol abuse cause a higher risk of depression.
Medical illness requires treatment since it has far reaching consequences for the individual as well as society. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is estimated at 100 billion dollars per year in USA. The most important treatment options are psychotherapy, skills programs and psychiatric medication. This involves special schools, hospitals, residential arrangements or community clinics. Most people suffering from mental illness can get relieved by participating in an individual treatment plan.