The term mental health is used to describe our emotional and psychological wellbeing. Mental health encompasess the way we think, feel and our ability to cope with change; just like physical health, everyone has mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO,1948) defines mental health as a vital and integral part of health. According to WHO (1948), “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Hence, mental health is more than simply the lack of mental disorders or disabilities. Just like physical health fluctuates, so does mental health. Hence we can experience good or bad mental health throughout different periods of our lives. Good mental health can involve feeling a sense of purpose, having the energy to do things you enjoy, and the ability to cope with changes that can occur.
What can affect mental health?
There are various psychological, biological and social factors that can affect an individual’s mental health at any given time. For example, ongoing socio economic pressures, violence, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, discrimination, stressful work, rapid social change and ill physical health have all been identified as risks to mental health.
How do we improve mental health?
The promotion of mental health includes improving psychological well being and developing an environment that respects mental health. These can involve putting early childhood interventions in place, which can include supporting children with life skills programmes, aiding minorities, promoting mental health in schools and at work, and increasing awareness of the rights of individuals with mental illnesses. On an individual level, we can improve our own mental health by trying to connect with people; positive relationships can help build a sense of self worth and belonging and provide support. Furthermore, Research suggests that being physically active can contribute to our mental wellbeing by improving our self esteem and creating chemical changes in the brain that can aid in positively changing mood. In addition, evidence shows that learning a new skill can provide a sense of purpose and aid us in connecting with others. Finally, trying to be present in the moment on purpose by practicing mindfulness has been proven to improve mental wellbeing. Nevertheless, there may be times where we may struggle to improve our mental wellbeing or may experience prolonged periods of low mood or stress. In turn, this may start to impact the individuals’ day to day functioning and make it harder for them to apply things on their own. In these situations, talking to your GP, or seeking out the help of a mental health professional would be highly recommended.