What is Mental Health?

Mental Health is being talked about more now than ever. 

With the fact that 1 in 5 people will struggle with their mental health each year. It’s a good thing that mental health is finding its way to the spotlight.

This statistic isn’t to say the same 1 in 5 people will always represent this demographic either. Mental Health conditions change continuously as our health and life changes. Almost everyone will likely experience mental health issues at some time or another in their life.

But what exactly is mental health? How is it different from mental illness?

Keep reading for that answer and more!

What is Mental Health?

What is Mental Health?

What most people associate mental health with are things like depression, anxiety, anger, PTSD. While these are mental health conditions related to mental illnesses, that’s not all mental health is. 

If you think of what we think of when we consider our health in general, we think of our body, how healthy it is, nutrition, and the thought of maintaining a healthy body to avoid health problems or illness. Well, Mental Health is the same thing, but with our brains. Mental health refers to the overall condition. A person can be in good mental health, be experiencing mental health problems, or have a mental illness. 

What is the difference between Mental Health and Mental Illness?

While they are often talked about together, there is a difference between the two. 

Mental Health can be described as how you feel and function in everyday life. Mental illness refers to any number of mental health conditions or diagnosable disorders that impact a person’s overall mental health.

Many things can impact a person’s mental health, and not everyone who will struggle with mental health has a mental illness. A person’s mental health can be affected by your overall health, social factors, upbringing, experiences they might have had, genetics, nutrition, and any number of things. Not every mental health problem is related to a mental illness. 

Mental illness refers to various mental heal conditions and diagnosable mental disorders, all of which impact your overall Mental Health. Mental Health is our foundation for processing our emotions, how we process, how we feel about ourselves and others, and overall how we are functioning in day-to-day life.

Symptoms of Mental Health Problems 

The World Health Organization WHO defines mental health as :

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

Mental Health Disorders 

There are common types of mental illness disorders. Mental illness disorders usually affect a person for much of their life and often can require medication and therapy to help the individual cope or recover.

The two most common types of mental health disorders are Mood disorders and Anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders 

Anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses and can stem from various mental health conditions or illnesses. Many people experience anxiety when struggling with their mental health. Some can be prolonged mental illnesses, such as a person who has always suffered with OCD their whole lives for example, where as some disorders can be brought on later on in life by triggering events and experiences such as PTSD.

Common Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Panic Disorders 
Phobias 
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder OCD 
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders affect a person’s overall mood and can significantly impact their overall mental wellness. People affected by mood disorders experience significant changes to their mood, often accompanied by periods of mania, depression, or both.

Common Mood Disorders

Depression
Bi Polar Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder

Mental Health and Mental Illnesses vary, and symptoms a person experiences can change as well. While mental illnesses will include their own unique set of symptoms, often starting with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, there are many more indicators that your mental health is suffering than that. 

Signs of Mental Health Problems

Here are some common indicators of mental illness or mental health struggles;

Experiencing depression 
Anxiety
Changes to the overall behavior and mood
Overeating/not eating enough
Changing to sleep such as inability to fall asleep or sleeping too much
Feeling hopeless 
Low self-esteem or low self-worth, limited self-potential
Confusion
Fatigue
Withdrawing from social activities or socail media
Loss/lack of Ambition
Difficulty or inability to carry out daily activities such as work, cooking, cleaning etc.

The above are some common behavioral changes that may indicate a struggle with mental health or mental illness. It is essential to understand that Mental Health will be different from person to person, and mental health conditions will present differently from case to case. 

What should you do if you think you are struggling with mental health?

If you or someone you know might be experiencing mental health problems, what should you do? 

If you have mental health concerns about yourself, it is important that you speak to your doctor about it, no matter how minor they may seem. Your doctor can do tests to help rule out any physical health problems that could be contributing. Additionally, they will listen and help you towards the right next step. If you don’t have a doctor, there are many options available for help. Most cities have free mental health clinics, such as Klinic here in Winnipeg. These clinics can be a great place to find resources or even speak to a trained counselor.  

It is vital to understand that things like poor nutrition and the overuse of mood-altering substances, living a high-stress life can lead to poor mental health conditions that may present one or symptoms of mental illness. Like how our bodies get less healthy with the more alcohol we drink and more Mcdonalds we eat, the same goes for your mental health. When we eat poorly, our body’s overall health deteriorates, and it can lead to minor health problems or severe illnesses. The same thing happens with our mental health. With a lack of nutrition or too many toxins, our brain’s overall condition and health deteriorate, and we can start to experience mental health problems. The brain is a muscle that needs to be kept in good shape & healthy to work its best, just like your heart or any other organ in your body.

If you are unable to go to any of these places physically, LOTS of help exists online. There are many apps and websites that offer free or low-cost real counseling.

If you suspect someone else may be struggling with their mental health, what should you do? The best thing you can do is be there for the person. If you feel comfortable, check-in with this person and see how they are doing. If you feel so inclined, find local or online resources you can share with them. Let them know that they don’t have to be suffering alone, or at all. Help exists for every kind of person that is open to it. Understand that not everyone will be ready to talk about it or even receptive to the idea of a mental health struggle. It can be a bit of a hot topic, especially to those who don’t already experience mental health struggles. If they insist they aren’t struggling, don’t want the help, no matter the rejection, the most you can do is accept that and offer your support.

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