Mental health is about the way you feel, think, and interact with others. It is important for all of us. Mental illness affects 1 in 8 people globally, and it can have many causes. These include:
Negative experiences in childhood, like abuse or neglect; ongoing stress or trauma; and some medical conditions that can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis, or bipolar disorder. Many factors, such as genetics, gender, and lifestyle also influence mental health.
People living with mental illnesses face a range of challenges, including stigma and discrimination, which can prevent them from seeking help. They are more likely to live in poverty and have poorer outcomes than those without a mental illness. This is partly because they are more likely to be unemployed and less able to work, but it is also because treatment options are not always available.
While most people recover from their mental illnesses, they can continue to experience difficulties if the symptoms persist for a long time or are not treated (Duncan et al, 2010). These can include trouble with thinking, attention, memory, arousal and energy management, and interpersonal functioning. Some people may also have physical health problems, like chronic pain or diabetes, that affect their mental health.
Despite the stigma, some people with mental disorders do get diagnosed and treated. However, this is often difficult in less developed countries and for some groups of people, such as African Americans who are underrepresented in research studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health, the lead federal agency for healthcare research.
Some researchers argue that we need to rethink our assumptions about mental illness. They argue that the dominant narrative of a neurological basis for mental illness is not helpful to patients and the public, as it implies that we can treat mental illness in the same way as other medical illnesses. They also argue that a biological model of mental health can be harmful to vulnerable groups, such as people with intellectual disabilities or those who have experienced trauma.
We must rethink how we talk about mental health, especially in the workplace. This will mean making sure that employees are protected by laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and expanded access to paid sick leave, so they can use it to cope with their symptoms. It will also mean taking a more proactive approach to support in the workplace, such as providing information about mental health and training for supervisors on how to recognize and respond to symptoms of a mental illness. It will also involve more active efforts to identify and address disparities in who gets help, how it is accessed, and the quality of care provided. And finally, we must make it easier to discuss mental health issues with family and friends. This can start with a simple question, like “How are you doing?” — and listening carefully to the answer. Then, we can follow up with a recommendation for further help.