Mental Health Awareness

What is mental health? What are the effects of mental illness on the individual?

What is Mental health?

Mental health or mental wellness encompasses a person’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. As defined by WHO Mental health is that state of “mental well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to contribute towards his or her community.’’ (World Health Organization)

Thus, we can say, overall mental well-being means a person able to perform effective functioning and activities in daily life and sound mental health.

  • It is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience, and self-esteem.
  • It is the key to relationships, it affects how we think, feel, and act towards oneself and society.
  • It helps to determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Mental health is indispensable at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence through adulthood. Therefore, the term well-being combines both, mental health and physical health resulting in more holistic approaches to disease prevention and health promotion among masses.

Not all disabilities are visible. A stigma or a real threat?

Simply looking healthy in contrast to being healthy – two different things.

What exactly a mental illness or mental disorder is?

Mental illness or mental disorders are actually physical illnesses of the brain. Mental disorders, refer to a wide range of mental health ailments that result in alterations of your mood, thinking, and behavior associated with ache or broken functioning variety of mental disorders such as anxiety disorders and panic attacks, phobias, depression, schizophrenia, body dysmorphic disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, Obsessive-compulsive disorder and other behaviors issues that can adversely affect mental health to the point making it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life.

Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genetic influences or brain chemistry, hormonal imbalances.
  • Life experiences,   such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Mental illness affects everyone irrespective of their race, gender, culture, age, education or income level, ethnicity, or sexual identity.

What does the statistic say?

Mental health problems are more frequent now than you may think. 1 out of every 5 adults in America and more than 40 million people experience mental illness every year. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in a given year, 18.5% of American adults will experience a mental illness. While according to WHO, by the year 2030, depression will be a prevalent disease burden worldwide. outranking blood pressure, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Early warning signs & symptoms for mental illness

With mental disorders being so prevalent both in the United States and worldwide it is important to recognize the early warning signs or activities that may be looked out for.

Common symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Abnormal eating or sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Lack of personal care
  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in  activities once enjoyed
  • A decrease in energy
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Feeling confused, oblivion, edgy, angry, upset, worried, or scared than usual
  • Troubling with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech
  • An unusual drop in functioning, at school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Inability to perform  daily tasks
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that may affect even relationships 
  • often feeling angry, hostile, or violent
  • Detachment from reality (delusion), feeling paranoid, hearing voices, or having hallucinations
  • Unusual behavior such as Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior
  • Significant increase in smoking, drinking or drug intake.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or intended to harm others

One or two of these signs cannot foretell about having a mental illness however it may be an early warning sign or indicate the need for both physical and mental health assessment. If a person is experiencing several of the symptoms, causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relationships, it may useful to follow up with a mental health professional. People with suicidal thoughts or intent of harming others need immediate attention.

Is mental illness a matter of shame or a matter of consideration?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is ‘No health without mental health.” However, due to the stigma that often surrounds mental health millions of people worldwide do not receive the help they need and often overlook this extremely prevalent health issue.

Some popular myths about mental health problems:

Mental health problems are rare.

  • Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems.
  • Children cannot develop mental health problems.
  • Young people just go through ups and downs as part of puberty – it’s nothing to do with mental illness.
  • I can’t do anything to support someone with a mental health problem.
  • What do I do for him/ her?
  • People with mental illness aren’t able to work.
  • People with mental illness are usually violent, dangerous, and unpredictable.
  • You can’t recover from mental health problems
  • Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Just taking a pill is the only solution.
  • There is no hope for people with mental health problems. If a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he/she can never recover.

There are all myths, none of them is a fact the fact is Mental illness is not contagious, you can’t catch it, by being kind.

Many people suffering from mental illness do not want to disclose or talk about it and seek treatment. But having a mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed. It is a medical condition, just like diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, and other physical ailments and treatments are available to help people successfully manage mental health conditions just like treatments for other physical health issues.

Even though the general perception about mental illness has much improved over the past decades, yet studies have shown that the disgrace associated with mental illness is still powerful, mainly due to media stereotypes and lack of general awareness, education on this topic and that people tend to attach negative stigmas to mental health conditions. Still, the stigma attached to mental health remains a huge barrier to people, rather ill-informed attitude, making it more difficult for those affected to pursue help.

How to create a difference?

There’s no health without mental health, let us all not neglect the mentally ill people struggling quietly. Let’s speak out against stigma around mental health and encourages people who are suffering in silence to seek help.

Here a few little yet powerful things we can do to help. Let’s create a difference in each other’s lives!

Showing individuals respect and acceptance:

Stigma and misinformation can be an overwhelming obstacle for someone who is suffering from a mental health condition that removes these barriers for those coping with their illness.  See all the people as an individual and not as an illness or sick person, this can make a big difference for someone who is struggling with their mental health.

 Time to stand up against stigma- no health without mental health.

Advocating within our circles of influence

It ensures these individuals that they have the same basic rights and opportunities to live, work and enjoy as other members of your church, school, and community.

Learning more about mental health issues:

It will help us to provide helpful support to those affected in our families and communities.

Important Mental Health Awareness Days

April – National Stress Awareness Month

May 9 – National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

May 13 – 19 – Mental health awareness week 

June 27 – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 10 – World Suicide Prevention Day.

September 9-15 – National Suicide Prevention Week

October 10 –  World Mental Health Day

October 10 –  National Depression Screening Day

6-12 October – Mental Illness Awareness Week

Let’s celebrate & remember mental health days like our birthdays!!

This year let’s pledge to ‘Make Your Mark For Mental Health’ with a message that mental illness is treatable and that patients do not have to suffer in vain. When things inside you change, things will change around you.

Dr. Tayaba Sarfraz

Medical Doctor | Medical Educationist & Writer Mommy of 2 | Master chef | Health Enthusiast


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