Mental health is the state of emotional well-being and the ability to adapt and cope with life’s challenges. It encompasses emotions, behaviour and cognitive function — how we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us. When people have mental illnesses, these can affect their thinking and perception of the self and the world and impact how they act, leading to serious difficulties in their everyday lives.
The causes of mental illness are not fully understood, but genetics and environment play a role, like with other medical illnesses. The way we think and feel are also influenced by our culture and society, and this can influence what we believe is normal and what is not. This can lead to stigma, which is a barrier to people seeking help and staying in treatment.
There are many different types of mental health problems, and some are very serious and even life-threatening. But most people who have mental illnesses can get better with treatment. Most will recover to the point that they can enjoy a meaningful, satisfying and happy life.
Globally, about 1 in 8 people live with a mental disorder, and these disorders are major contributors to morbidity and mortality. However, most countries are spending far less than they need to address this burden – the “treatment gap” is more than 70% worldwide. And in some places, the treatment gap is much larger.
A lack of affordable, accessible, quality care is often the reason why people with mental health conditions don’t receive the treatment they need. Many governments spend a small fraction of their health budgets on mental health services, and these funds are often misallocated. In addition, many people with mental disorders face high levels of social stigma and discrimination, which can further limit their opportunities to seek treatment or make use of services.
Providing support to family and friends of people with mental health problems can be beneficial for their own wellbeing as well. This can include giving advice on how to cope with a mental health problem, encouraging the person to talk about their feelings and experiences with others, and helping them find sources of support in their community.
If you are feeling down or having thoughts of suicide, it is important to seek help. There are many ways to get help, including talking therapy and medication. The best place to start is with your primary care provider. You can also contact a hotline for help. In the U.S., call 988-Suicide or text 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
This chart shows how the prevalence of depression varies by level of education in each country. The higher the level of education, the lower the rate of depression. Countries with a lower level of education tend to be less developed, so it is important for them to invest in improving mental health services. This will enable them to reduce the burden of mental illness and create a more healthy and prosperous world.