Mental health is the ability to cope with and manage emotions, thoughts, feelings and relationships. It affects a person’s outlook on life, including their sense of well-being, confidence and self-esteem. It also determines the way they interact with others and deal with daily problems. This ability to function is influenced by the physical, psychological and social environment around us, as well as our genetic predisposition.
The mental health of individuals is also determined by the experiences and capabilities they develop during their childhood, adolescence and adulthood. These can increase or decrease the likelihood of developing a mental illness. For example, traumatic life events and ongoing stress, such as financial or relationship difficulties can cause depression. Substance abuse also increases the risk of having an episode of psychosis or bipolar disorder and can contribute to mental illness in adolescents. Some medical conditions or hormone changes can trigger particular mental illnesses.
It is not always clear when a problem with mood or thinking has become serious enough to be considered a mental health concern. For instance, a low or depressed mood can be normal following the loss of a loved one but it may be more serious if it persists for more than two weeks and causes significant distress or gets in the way of daily activities. This is why it’s important to see a doctor if you are concerned about your mental health.
Unlike medical conditions such as cancer or heart disease, which are typically treated with medicines to restore normal physiologic processes, the focus of therapeutic interventions for mental disorders is on achieving positive changes in feelings, perceptions, thought and behaviour that impact on an individual’s concept of self and their relationship to the world. This is because the primary symptoms of mental health conditions are often invisible to the naked eye and can only be assessed with scientific instruments such as questionnaires.
A range of methods are used to improve mental health, ranging from talking therapies and medication to exercise, healthy eating and sleeping habits. The aim is to reduce the burden of mental illness and ensure people can live fulfilling lives.
Across the Region, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are common and contribute significantly to non-communicable diseases. They can also be a major factor in unintentional injury and suicide. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) provides estimates of mental health prevalence using a combination of data sources: national records, epidemiological studies and surveys. Where raw data for a country is unavailable, IHME uses meta-regression models and estimates from neighbouring countries. Explore the global database and select a country to view its estimated prevalence rates for various mental health disorders. This information should be used to inform and guide mental health policies and programmes. This includes the development and monitoring of interventions that aim to reduce their prevalence. It should also be used to help design and deliver better services that are effective, equitable and sustainable.