Psychological health is essential for overall wellness, and it can be impacted by many factors. Often, our work environment plays a major role. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought psychological health into the spotlight, with organizations re-examining their policies and practices to ensure a healthy workplace.
According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our bodies. It is a continuum that includes everything from feeling happy to dealing with depression, anxiety and other psychological issues. Poor mental health can lead to an inability to work, to a decreased quality of life, or even to suicide.
Psychologists study the mind and brain, and they can help people deal with emotional or behavioral challenges. They can also offer advice on how to prevent these challenges. They focus on both positive and negative aspects of human behaviour, as well as on the influence of genes and the environment on behavior.
A person who is not in good psychological health might suffer from various symptoms that can be difficult to identify, such as a low energy level, change in mood, difficulty coping with stress, poor sleeping or eating habits and feelings of sadness or depression. People who struggle with mental illness might also have a harder time getting help and support. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental illness.
Some types of psychological problems are caused by biological or environmental factors, such as a genetic predisposition or exposure to toxic substances. Other problems may be a result of lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drug or alcohol use or poor nutrition. Psychologists who specialise in the prevention and treatment of mental illness and wellbeing are called health psychologists or clinical health psychologists.
There is a growing trend in psychology to move away from focusing solely on disorder and dysfunction. This shift has been facilitated by the development of new scientific approaches that measure well-being and psychological flourishing. Research shows that flourishing is positively associated with a variety of biomedical outcomes, including lifespan and survival, as shown in the figure below.
A lot of effort goes into identifying those who are in danger of developing mental illness and then treating them to reduce the number who do so. However, this approach can overlook the fact that most who develop mental disorder come from the general population and not from those who are at high risk of such a disorder (the languishing group). This means that it might be more useful to intervene in the whole population, rather than just those who have been identified as needing help. This would involve addressing issues like poor diet, physical activity and the use of drugs and alcohol. This is a challenge, but one that can have a profound impact on people’s lives and the wellbeing of society as a whole.