Psychological health refers to an individual’s ability to deal with life’s stresses, emotions and challenges. It also encompasses the individual’s ability to make healthy decisions, maintain healthy relationships and cope with life changes. It is often overlooked by the medical industry but can be just as important as physical health. The complexities of psychological health are why a large variety of practitioners exist to help their clients through mental illness, life changes and personal development.
Mental illnesses affect 19% of adults, 46% of teenagers and 13% of children. People dealing with these issues may live in your family, work in your office building or sit in your church pew. Yet, only about half of those suffering receive treatment, largely due to the stigma attached to mental illness. Untreated, mental illness can lead to higher medical expenses, poor performance at school and at work, fewer employment opportunities, and even suicide.
In contrast, positive psychology, a growing field in psychology, focuses on what individuals can do to promote their own psychological well-being. Its guiding principles are that people who feel happy, satisfied and accomplished are healthy; that individuals with well-developed cognitive, emotional, and social skills can manage their lives effectively; that individuals are capable of experiencing appropriate human feelings – such as fear, anger or sadness – while possessing sufficient resilience to timeously search for a new equilibrium; and that individuals are able to find meaning in their lives.
While some mental illness is a result of genetics, brain chemistry or the impact of trauma, many are caused by a lack of resources or underlying problems. For example, research shows that individuals with depression have a greater risk of substance misuse, heart disease and diabetes than those without mental illness. In addition, the National Institutes of Mental Health reports that a lack of access to care and social support contributes to the increased incidence of mental illnesses.
Marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by mental illness for a variety of preventable reasons. These include racial, sexual and socioeconomic minorities as well as individuals living in poverty. A lack of cultural competency among mental health providers can further limit the availability and quality of care for these groups.
Despite these barriers, there is hope. A recent study found that a focus on workplace psychological health leads to higher employee satisfaction, productivity and retention rates. In addition, the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety provides a framework for organizations to promote a healthy and safe workplace.
It’s never too late to take steps toward achieving better psychological health. The first step is understanding the threats that can cause harm to your psychological health and what you can do to address them. Here are some resources to get you started: