Mental health is the ability to live a fulfilling life and to relate to other people in healthy ways. People who have a mental illness often experience difficulty in these areas, making it hard to work, go to school or keep up with household chores. But, with treatment, such as talk therapy or medication, people can manage their conditions and lead a productive life.
There are many types of mental illnesses. Some are very serious, such as psychosis or bipolar disorder. Others are less severe, such as depression or anxiety. Some symptoms of these disorders are similar, such as feelings of hopelessness or a sense of detachment from family and friends. Mental illnesses can also affect a person’s ability to think clearly or make decisions.
The vast majority of people who have mental illnesses recover with professional help. Most treatments involve a combination of medications and talk therapy. Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and some primary care physicians provide this type of treatment. It involves talking about your problems and learning more healthful thought patterns that support daily living and reduce the risk of isolation or self-harm. Medications can improve mood and reduce symptoms, such as low or high blood pressure or nausea. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics and anxiolytic drugs.
A person’s risk for developing a mental illness is determined by a variety of factors, including genes and the environment. Some diseases or infections, such as AIDS or viral hepatitis, can increase the risk of developing mental illness. Drug or alcohol abuse can trigger episodes of psychosis or mania. A negative childhood or ongoing stressors can contribute to the development of depression, anxiety and other disorders. And certain environmental exposures, such as toxins, infections or trauma, can be linked to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Having a mental illness can affect a person’s quality of life, including their relationship with family and friends, their work or school performance, sleep patterns and appetite, energy levels and daily functioning, and ability to concentrate. In some cases, it can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you are feeling suicidal, call a suicide hotline in your country or region. In the United States, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Line or use the Lifeline Chat service. You can also speak to a primary care physician or a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
Values play a role in the treatment of most medical disorders, but become paramount when dealing with mental disorders. Societal and personal values determine how the disease is interpreted and treated, even influencing differences in diagnosis over time and across geographic locations.