Mental health is an important aspect of well-being, influencing your mood and emotions, the way you think, your relationships with other people and how you cope with challenges. It can be affected by genetics, brain chemistry, stressors and lifestyle choices. In addition to treating symptoms, mental health treatment can help you learn healthier ways to cope and live your life.
Around the world, more than 300 million people — 4.4% of the population — live with depression, the most common mental illness worldwide. There are many online diagnostic tools for self-assessment, but if you think you may be depressed it is best to consult a doctor. Depression can have a severe impact on your wellbeing, making it hard to function at home and at work. It can cause sleep problems, a loss of appetite and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. It can also lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
It is often said that mental illnesses are like the weather — they can go through bright bursts of energy and good mood, but they can also dip into dark days that make it difficult to do things. These ups and downs can occur throughout your lifetime, but most people who have a mental illness recover with the help of treatment.
Investing in mental health can yield a high return. A recent study found that every $1 invested in mental health care returns $4 in improved productivity and economic gains. But too many people don’t get the care they need, especially in low- and middle-income countries, where they are more likely to suffer from a mental illness.
This gap is the result of multiple factors: poor access to quality services; lack of financing; stigma and discrimination; and limited capacity of service providers and government institutions. The result is that many people don’t receive the treatment they need, and some are left without any treatment at all.
As the global community moves beyond the pandemic to focus on long-term recovery, mental health will be an important part of this effort. But we need to understand the full scope of this complex issue in order to design effective solutions. This will require collaboration across sectors and a wide range of expertise, including those of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists.
Mental health research is broad and includes both empirical studies, such as surveys or randomised controlled trials; and theoretical contributions that adopt a complexity science perspective (vibrancy, attractor states of wellbeing and illness, emergence, early warning signals). It also involves the development of new methodologies for studying mental disorders from a systems science viewpoint. These include methods drawn from network science and dynamic systems theory. It is essential to include perspectives from other disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and philosophy in this process. This will enable us to explore new avenues for understanding and addressing mental disorders.