Mental health encompasses emotional well-being, good behavioral adjustment and relative freedom from anxiety and disabling symptoms, allowing people to cope with the normal demands of life and to establish healthy relationships with others. It also allows them to work productively and make a meaningful contribution to society.
While researchers are still trying to understand what causes mental illness, they know that it is often the result of a combination of factors. These may include genetics (having a blood relative with a mental illness increases your risk), environmental stresses, your social group and culture, and changes in brain chemistry resulting from alcohol, drugs or certain medical conditions. These can lead to a wide range of disorders, from mild to severe.
These illnesses can have a significant impact on the quality of a person’s life and prevent them from realizing their potential. When not properly treated, they can cause severe disability and early death. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, including psychotherapy and/or medication, most people with mental illness can manage their condition and live a full and satisfying life.
Sadly, mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to morbidity and premature mortality. Despite the enormous human and economic costs, less than 2% of global health funding is spent on mental health. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and in some cases halted the provision of critical mental health services.
The World Health Organization estimates that every dollar invested in mental health yields a return of $4 in increased productivity and value added to the economy. It is clear that we need to invest more in mental health to reduce the burden on individuals, families, communities and nations.
Many people with mental health problems suffer in silence. They are too embarrassed to seek help, fear discrimination or think that their suffering is not real. Despite the fact that mental health is just as important as physical health, most people do not receive the care they need. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young Canadians – one person dies every 40 seconds.
Getting treatment is essential, and the best way to do so is to talk to your family doctor. He or she can help you determine if your concerns are normal, or if you need to see a specialist. Most importantly, stick to your treatment plan – and be sure to keep your primary care physician updated on any changes in your condition. If you are feeling suicidal, call a crisis line for help. In Canada, call or text 988-838-4754 or use the Lifeline Chat for free support. You can also contact your community health centre or a public health nurse. In addition, reach out to a trusted friend or colleague. Lastly, consider joining the conversation on social media to share your story and help break the stigma of mental illness. Together, we can build a healthier future for everyone.