Mental health is a state of well-being that affects your ability to cope with life’s challenges and have meaningful relationships. It involves how you feel, think and act. You can take steps to improve your mental health by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising and spending time with friends. You can also get help if you are struggling. Talk therapy (also called counselling or counseling) and medicines can help. You can find help and support from family and friends, and from organisations like the Samaritans.
Mental disorders are among the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. Yet the resources allocated to tackle them are insufficient, poorly distributed and often ineffective. The result is a global treatment gap that surpasses 70%. And stigma, discrimination and exclusion make it even harder for people to access the care they need.
It is not always clear when a negative mood becomes a mental health issue that requires professional help. For instance, depression is a common and treatable condition but if it interferes with your daily functioning, you may need to seek help. Your primary care provider can help you decide if you need further assessment and, if needed, refer you for specialist services.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to the community.” The WHO recognises that people experiencing mental distress are affected by many factors including their age, gender, financial situation, employment status and social connections. Those that have lost their jobs during the pandemic, those who live alone and those with lower socio-economic status are more at risk of poor mental health.
While there are no guarantees, most people with mental illness recover and lead fulfilling lives, especially if they are diagnosed early, receive treatment and play an active role in their own recovery. A good mental health helps you get along with others, have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, and enjoy hobbies and activities. It also helps you to deal with the things that happen in your life, such as grief or loss, and cope with trauma.
While there is much we do not know about the cause of mental disorders, it is thought that they are a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as childhood traumas, experiences with violence and poverty, and aspects of one’s social environment. Many of these determinants are outside the direct control of governments and funding bodies, which can sometimes be reluctant to invest in prevention initiatives that may require longer timeframes to manifest benefits. Therefore, effective prevention approaches should be cross-disciplinary and include communities, schools and other settings. This requires new, innovative and evidence-based multisectoral interventions to prevent mental disorders at the population level. This is why the World Bank is supporting new psychosocial interventions that address key barriers to mental health prevention, such as reducing the impact of lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantines, infection fears, job and income losses, lack of information, and stigma and discrimination.