Mental health is a state of well-being in which people realise their own abilities, can cope with life’s challenges, and have positive relationships. It is influenced by many factors such as genetics, the environment and socioeconomic circumstances. People who have good mental health can manage stress, keep up with their responsibilities and commitments, make healthy choices, and contribute to their community. People with poorer mental health may have difficulty doing this.
Mental illnesses can be very distressing and cause severe disability and reduced quality of life. However, it is possible to overcome them and live a normal life. Early and consistent treatment—often a combination of medication and psychotherapy—can improve outcomes.
Many people are at risk of developing a mental health disorder. The chance of having a mental illness increases with age and is higher in people who have a family history of the condition. People who have experienced trauma or abuse may be more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Having a mental health disorder can affect a person’s ability to work, have healthy relationships, socialize, maintain hygiene and take care of themselves. It can also make it difficult to get treatment. Stigma and discrimination are major barriers to accessing help. Up to 1 in 10 people with a mental illness die by suicide. It is important to have a network of support and to seek professional help.
A range of effective treatments exist, including psychosocial interventions, behavioural therapies and medications. They can be delivered in the community, at home or in hospital, depending on the diagnosis and needs of each individual.
Developing and maintaining mental health involves working with professionals to develop a treatment plan, set goals and monitor progress. People who have a mental health problem are not to blame for their condition and should be treated with the same respect as any other person.
People with a mental health condition need to stick to their treatment plan, even when they feel better. If they stop taking their medication or stopping going to therapy, their symptoms can return. People should also talk to their primary care physician about any changes in symptoms. They can be a helpful source of information about mental health issues and can check whether the change is related to a medical or physical issue.
Mental disorders and psychoactive substance-related disorders are highly prevalent worldwide and are major contributors to morbidity, disability, and premature mortality. Inequalities in access to care and treatment, stigma, social exclusion, and discrimination further compound the global burden. Countries need to scale up and diversify the delivery of comprehensive, integrated and responsive community-based mental health services and care. The current care gap for mental disorders is about 70% globally, and the vast majority of it occurs in the least resourced countries. The WHO is committed to providing countries with the leadership, evidence and tools they need to transform their mental health systems.