Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium that is maintained through the interaction of an individual’s body, mind, and social environment. This dynamic equilibrium influences a person’s perception, cognition, and behavior. Specifically, mental health determines how an individual handles interpersonal relationships and stresses. It also impacts an individual’s emotional and behavioral functioning in school, work, and home.
Although the definition of mental health has been debated, most mental illnesses are the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. While many aspects of mental health are not purely biological, genetics, and traumatic experiences in childhood can significantly increase a person’s vulnerability to mental health disorders. Similarly, exposure to stress and time spent caring for others is strongly influenced by a person’s socioeconomic status.
Some of the key components of mental health include: good sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a harmonious relationship between body and mind. A person’s mental health can improve with proper medication, counseling, and professional support. The ability to express feelings and emotions is also important. People with good mental health typically experience feelings of happiness and sadness. In addition, they often have a strong sense of mastery over their environments.
Behavioral health disorders are disorders of the behavior and thinking. Those who suffer from these disorders may have a hard time doing tasks at work or home. They may also have a tendency to become depressed or angry. Symptoms may vary in severity from mild to severe. These types of disorders can have a negative impact on an individual’s functioning at work, at home, and in the community.
Among adults, depression is the most common mental health disorder. It is estimated to affect more than 20% of the population in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, the exact figures are not comparable between countries. Various national sources offer estimates of depression prevalence. Depression is commonly diagnosed when a person reports a certain number of symptoms that persist for at least two weeks, or when an individual exhibits symptoms that are persistent for more than a year. Approximately 50% of people who receive a diagnosis recover within a year.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) uses the term “mental illness” interchangeably with the terms “mental health.” NAMI recognizes that mental illness includes both disorders of mood and psychotic disorders. Moreover, they point out that individuals suffering from one mental illness are not at fault. Rather, they need to take a more active role in their recovery. Ultimately, though, there is no single, universal way to achieve recovery. Each recovery path is tailored to the needs of the individual.
Adverse childhood experiences such as parental loss, child abuse, and separation can increase a child’s risk of developing mental health problems later in life. Similarly, having experienced a traumatic event, such as a parent’s death, can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder. Having a family history of mental illness is another risk factor.