Mental Health – What is it and How Can it Affect You?

mental health

Mental health is a state of emotional, psychological and social well-being. It influences cognition, perception and behaviour. It can be affected by many things including family, genes and brain chemistry, major life events and traumas, substance use, diet and exercise and the physical environment. People with mental illness can recover and live happy, productive lives with proper treatment.

There is no definitive biological cause for most mental disorders but research has shown that many have a genetic basis, are linked to early life experiences and can be influenced by environmental factors. Mental illnesses can occur in people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, however there is evidence that certain groups are more at risk such as those who have experienced trauma, have been exposed to violence and poverty and have lower educational attainment.

Just like the weather, your mental health can go through positive, bright bursts and darker days. Sometimes it can feel hard to get through the day and there may be times when you don’t want to leave your bed. Just remember that these are the moments that you can use to learn and grow from.

Talk therapy and medicine can help treat mental illnesses. For example, some medications work by increasing the body’s absorption of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, while others help to control a person’s mood and perceptions, or stop them from taking the wrong actions. Some examples include antidepressants, sedatives, mood stabilisers, psychotic medicines such as anti-psychotics and more.

While there are a number of ways to maintain good mental health, it is important to have support systems and to stay connected with others, as well as to make healthy lifestyle choices. Regular physical activity, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep can all help. You can also practice relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety and stress.

A wide range of government, community and private organisations can provide mental health care. They can offer counselling, rehabilitation programmes and other services. Often they are free or at low cost. Some people choose not to seek help because of the stigma associated with mental illness, or because they are afraid or do not believe they have a problem. For others, financial difficulties, lack of insurance or the time needed to take off from work are barriers to receiving care.

Most people with a mental illness can be treated and will recover. Some may need medication but most can be helped by talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy, as well as other supportive activities such as group, couple or family therapy. Some individuals will also need to change their lifestyles, for example by reducing alcohol intake, sleeping more, improving nutrition and exercise or changing personal relationships that are causing damage to their mental health. For those with serious mental illnesses, residential care may be required.