The definition of mental health involves how we think, feel and behave. It impacts on daily life, relationships and can sometimes affect physical health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
Just like physical health, mental health is vulnerable to change. In the same way a person can catch a cold or virus and be physically unwell for a time, you can also experience mental health disorders. These disorders can influence thinking, mood and behaviour. Just like physical conditions some mental health disorders are temporary and others are lifelong. People with mental health disorders can get better and manage their disorder with help and some may recover completely.
Similarly to physical conditions mental health disorders can sometimes be traced to a contributing factor. These include:
Biological factors – due to genes and brain chemistry some people are more susceptible to mental health disorders.
Life experiences – trauma and abuse can result in mental health disorders
Family history of mental health disorders
Mental Health Awareness
Understanding the definition of Mental health and its problems can be difficult. Often people will live with their condition unaware they are struggling with a genuine problem. Unlike physical health, mental health isn’t always obvious and given the seriousness it requires. If you broke your leg you would immediately go and get it fixed. When we experience mental health problems it can be easier to think it is something that can’t be fixed and you just have to live with it. This attitude is wrong and dangerous. Mental health disorder are real and debilitating. Nobody should experience mental health problems without information, support and help to manage the disorder and recover.
Signs of Mental Health Disorders
Mental health problems may be present if a person experiences one or more of the following feelings or behaviours:
Eating or sleeping in a different way to usual. Perhaps too much or too little
Spending less time with people and usual activities
Having low or no energy
Feeling numb or like nothing matters
Having unexplained aches and pains
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
Shouting or fighting with family and friends
Severe mood swings
New problems in relationships
Repeatedly going over thoughts and memories
Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
Thinking of harming yourself or others
Difficulty or inability to carry out normal daily tasks
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Mental health problems are very common. These can range from disorders such as anxiety to more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Promoting good mental health can impact on physical health and improve many other aspects of people’s lives. This can help people:
Achieve their potential
Manage and cope with stress
Engage with their local community
Some ways to achieve and maintain good mental health include:
Being aware of warning signs
Seeking professional help when needed
Creating and maintaining relationships
Regular physical activity
Sleeping and eating well
Learning and using coping skills
How can Mental Health be promoted in the Workplace?
Mental health awareness is particularly important in the workplace. Importantly it is where many people spend much of their time and it can be a stressful and fast paced environment. Organisations can promote mental health by providing:
Access to appropriate training
Promote mental health prevention in day to day work
Raise awareness of mental health and it’s importance
Encourage and accommodate healthy lifestyles with good food available, time away from desks or work stations and opportunity for physical activity.