What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is mental well-being. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their abilities, can cope with the everyday stresses of life, can work productively and can contribute to their community. It includes how people perceive themselves, handle social situations, deal with stress and cope with difficult situations.
Other factors that contribute to mental well-being include an individual’s ability to have healthy relationships, develop meaningful life goals, set realistic expectations for oneself, control dangerous behavior and maintain a balanced view of their abilities.
Why Is Mental Health Important?
Any mental illness can cause severe damage to the person struggling through it, both mentally and physically. Suffering from a mental illness also impacts family members in negative ways. Whether it’s the family member caring for someone with mental illness or the individual struggling with mental distress, it will have lasting effects on the surrounding people. Because mental illness can wreak havoc on a person and their loved ones, it is critical to understand how it works to help individuals struggling with it.
By keeping their mind healthy, one can live life as they were meant to live it, take care of themselves and trust those they surround themselves with. Mental health helps individuals perform daily tasks such as going out with friends or family, grocery shopping, work and other day-to-day activities.
Taking care of our mental health should be taken just as seriously as our physical health. Our mental state affects how we function in our daily lives. One’s mental state also affects their overall mental wellness, such as sleeping habits and the ability to focus on tasks, which can lead to not landing certain jobs done or achieving goals set forth for themselves because they were too focused on their mental struggles.
Early Signs of Mental Illness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some mental illnesses develop during childhood while others are not seen until the teenage years or adulthood. It’s important to remember that early signs of mental illness can vary depending on what mental illness is being experienced.
Warning Signs in Younger Children
Children can be highly mentally distressed. Some mental illnesses in children may result in the child not eating, struggling with sleeping habits or doing things such as talking about death or dying. Early signs of mental illness also vary depending on the mental disorder and include:
- Behavioral problems at school and/or home (e.g., arguing, fighting, pushing other kids)
- Frequent temper tantrums
- Extreme mood changes
- Problems making friends or keeping friends over a long time
- Excessive worrying and fearfulness
If you’re wondering if your child is experiencing mental health issues, it’s vital to watch their mental health for early signs of mental illness.
Some examples of mental illnesses often found in younger children are:
Learning disabilities occur when an individual has trouble processing information. Professionals can detect them through speech therapy or another type of testing and assess how well someone can process new information.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD makes it difficult for individuals to control their impulses, concentration levels and focus on their given tasks.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a mental health condition in which the individual may have abnormal social interaction, sensory processing issues, repetitive behaviors or restricted interests.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder occurs when individuals find it difficult to separate themselves from their caregivers, whether at home, school or elsewhere.
Reactive Attachment Disorders
Reactive attachment disorders can occur when individuals lack proper affection from their primary caregiver(s) before the age of five.
If your child has experienced any of the above issues, you should speak with a mental health professional. It’s essential that you take mental health seriously and don’t wait to get help when dealing with mental distress because it can lead to severe consequences down the road.
Warning Signs in Adolescents and Adults
Now let’s look at mental illness found in adolescence and adulthood. Some early signs of mental illness include:
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Increased levels of aggression or agitation
- Extreme changes in eating habits
- Increased feelings of anxiety or restlessness
- Sleeping disturbances
- Changes in mood such as feeling perpetually hopeless, depressed, sad, tearful, tired, irritable or angry
Other mental ailments that may appear during adolescence are substance abuse problems or drug addiction, which can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues.
Mental illness in adulthood may develop after being exposed to traumatic events, whether war-torn areas with physical injuries or not handling mental distress caused by mental illness. Mental disorders may include personality disorders in which the individual has trouble controlling their emotions and mental distress.
Other mental issues to look out for in adulthood are:
- Phobias: fear of anything, whether people, places, things
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD): mental health disorder related to perfectionism and getting everything “just right”
- Panic Disorders: panic attacks that cause mental anguish to the individual by feeling like they’re losing control or having difficulty breathing
- Schizophrenia: hearing voices in an individual’s head telling them what to do or seeing images that aren’t there
- Depression: high levels of sadness often lasting weeks at a time with symptoms such as changes in sleep patterns, fatigue, irritability, loss of interest, lack of pleasure in activities and feeling like nothing matters
- Bipolar Disorder: extremely high levels of happiness and increased activity followed by low levels of energy and mental anguish
Mental Illness Treatment
All mental health disorders should be taken seriously as they can lead to mental distress if not appropriately treated. Mental disorders are treatable with the help of professionals such as psychiatrists or psychologists. Many treatment options include:
- Psychotherapy (talking therapy related to mental distress)
- Medication where the individual takes medicine directly
- Mental health appointments with mental health professionals
- Mental exercises to help individuals manage mental illness
Mental Health Care Access
The mental health industry is booming and will only continue to grow as mental illnesses become more commonplace. Every individual should have access to mental health care if they are experiencing symptoms of mental illness or come in contact with someone who has mental distress. This can be done by having mental health teams available at each place that cares for people, such as schools, workplaces, hospitals and recovery centers where individuals may recover from addiction. Unfortunately, early signs of mental illness are often overlooked, allowing symptoms to worsen and require more difficult treatments later on.
Strengthening the Response to Mental Health
Mental health is a vital topic that deserves more attention. Whether you’re a mental health professional or just someone who wants to learn more about mental health, it’s vital to understand the different aspects of mental health and how they can affect your life. Though it can be challenging to talk about, mental health is essential because it affects everyone, from children to adults of all ages. Therefore, we must take the time to learn about mental illness and what we can do to prevent it from affecting our loved ones.
If you’re interested in helping make a difference in mental health, consider donating your time or money to an organization that provides mental health services or education. Together, we can positively impact the lives of those who have a mental illness.