Improving Mental Health

mental health

Mental health is a state of well-being in which individuals realize their own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, function in productive work and have positive relationships. People living with serious mental illness are able to overcome the challenges of their illnesses through treatment and other recovery supports. With proper and consistent treatment, many people are able to live independently, find employment, and enjoy a fulfilling and meaningful life.

It is estimated that nearly one in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental health condition at some point during their lives. While some people may be more vulnerable to mental health conditions due to a genetic or environmental factor, all of us can take steps to reduce our risk. This includes taking care of our physical health and seeking treatment for any chronic or acute conditions that we have.

Despite the widespread stigma associated with mental illness, there are effective treatments and recovery supports available. The key is to seek help early. People who delay getting treatment are at greater risk for negative outcomes, including increased symptoms, hospitalization, social exclusion, and even death.

Mental disorders are characterized by changes in thinking, perception and consciousness about the self and others. These changes can affect emotions, behavior and a person’s relationship to the world around them. They can also interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively in his or her job, family, home, community and social activities.

Many people with a mental disorder face discrimination and prejudice in the workplace, school and community. This can make it difficult to find employment, keep a job, maintain relationships and socialize. It can also lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness. Fortunately, with appropriate and consistent treatment-usually a combination of psychotherapy and medication-most people with mental disorders can manage their conditions and lead a full and active life.

Stigma and discrimination contribute to poor mental health, preventing many people from seeking help. This is why it is important to use person-first language (using the words people or persons before describing their condition) and avoid derogatory terms such as crazy, nuts, insane, psycho, deranged and schizophrenic when referring to people with these conditions.

Using these guidelines, we can all contribute to improving the mental health of our communities and ourselves. This starts with understanding that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that all of us have the capacity for good mental health.

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This content is made possible by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health.