When it comes to health and well-being, the first thing that comes to mind is physical health. In our society, there is a strong emphasis on taking care of our bodies, eating highly nutritious foods; jogging; hitting the gym; etc… and yet not so much on taking care of our mental health. Amidst the surge of self-help tips, the subject of mental health, its severity and effect on populace is downplayed. What does mental health really mean? What does it entail? And why is it pivotal?
According to Cori Dixon-Fyle, “Mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well being. “ Our mental health helps lay groundwork for how we live in this world.” It affects how we think, feel and behave. Our ability to handle emotions, stress, socialization, decision making and several others are greatly determined by our psychological state. Back in time, humans only emphasized the importance of physical well-being, but in today’s world our mental health is equally important. There is a clear case of imbalance if focus is placed solely on physical health neglecting the psychological health.
Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological( genetics, certain infections such as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder PANDA, brain defect, poor nutrition and exposure to toxins ), psychological( severe psychological trauma such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, poor ability to relate to others) and environmental factors( death or divorce, dysfunctional family life , low self esteem, substance abuse).
About 15% of the world’s diseases is mental illness with depression being one of the most common. Currently affecting an estimated 300million people around the world, World Health Organization(WHO) has projected that by 2030, it will be the leading cause of the global disease burden. About one in five adults has a mental illness in any given year. Mental illness is more than just being depressed. It covers a wide range of problems: spanning from ones that affect mood to those that affect thinking or behavior. Examples include; anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar depression and addictive behaviors . Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave rationally. It can be characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior and decreased participation in daily activities. Difficulty with concentration and memory may also be present.
Anxiety disorder is a mental disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. Symptoms may include stress that may be out of proportion to the impact of the event, inability to set aside a worry or restlessness. Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of extreme euphoria and depression without any justifiable cause.
It is rather unfortunate that most people do not assign the same level of importance to mental health check up as they would for physical check up. When mental health issues go untreated, they can eventually lead to hospitalization, and then a long period of emotional recovery might be necessary.
Mental illness does not discriminate. It can affect anyone irrespective of their age, race, gender, culture, ethnicity or sexual orientation. With its prevalence worldwide, it is important to recognize the early warning signs. They could be; decrease in energy, thoughts of self harm, inability to perform daily functions, severe mood swings, significant increase in drug or alcohol intake, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Reach out to close friends and family. Also do not hesitate to visit the nearest hospital if you feel you may be experiencing symptoms. There is absolutely no harm in checking your mental health. Take the step . Get checked !!