Why is mental health so important?
Mental health is essential for our overall well-being. The brain is an organ of utmost importance and the rest of our body cannot work properly without it. Our brain plays a huge role in both our physical and mental health. We know how important it is to take proper care of our bodies by eating well, exercising, practicing safety, etc. When we catch a cold we can easily tell by our physical symptoms and we know to go to a doctor if we break our arm. Yet with mental health many people are unable to recognize one’s symptoms nor identify when they should to go to a qualified medical professional.
Mental health is when a person has both emotional and cognitive wellbeing. The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Mental illness or mental disorders is a health condition in which a person’s mood, thoughts and/or behavioural patterns are impaired causing that person distress or disability. There are various types of mental illness including, but not limited to, major depression, bipolar, and anxiety disorders. Mental illness has biological basis like a physical illness or disease and should be looked at similarly. There is no one single cause for mental illness, but research indicates involvement of the brain’s neurotransmitters.
Mental health professionals’ diagnose and treat mental illness based on observed symptoms and how a person reports they feel, think, and behave. Once the symptoms that interfere with that person’s life are identified, the goal of mental health professionals is to reduce these symptoms and help the person function well. Always consult a mental health professional regarding diagnosis and treatment.
Research scientists continue working to better understand the chemical and structural changes in the brain. There may be a lot we still do not know about the brain, but there is a lot we do know about promoting mental health and improved treatment of mental illness. Education about mental health empowers us to make better decisions to increase our health, that of our loved ones, and the health of our community at large.
* The surgeon general reports that mental illnesses are so common that few U.S. families are untouched by them. And yet “Most of the US Population is not educated on mental health.” (Myers, J.E.; Sweeny, T.J.; Witmer, J.M. (2000). "The wheel of wellness counseling for wellness: A holistic model for treatment planning. Journal of Counseling and Development". Journal of Counseling and Development 78: 251–266).
How can I promote my mental health?
The following tips can help you improve your mental health:
Get sleep- Lack of sleep can decrease your ability to make good decisions, think rationally, concentrate, and handle difficult situations. Most experts recommend about 7- 8 hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep increases your likelihood of becoming sick, stressed, or depressed.
Stay active- Aerobic exercise can help improve your mood. Even just half an hour can reduce stress and fatigue. Try to exercise at least 3 times per week.
Healthy Eating- Eating a balanced and healthy diet can help regulate your mood by ensuring you get enough vitamins and nutrients. High sugar or caffeinated drinks/foods can decrease your ability to concentrate or handle stressors and could increase nervousness and irritability.
Healthy Thinking- Notice your thoughts. Are they self-critical or encouraging? Reframing negative statements into positive or realistic statements can help you better respond to life situations. Avoid stress when possible and support yourself when stressed by thinking positively and obtaining social support.
Boundaries- Learn to say no if its not good for you, this can include people, places, things, behaviours, etc. Partying or chilling out using drugs or alcohol may feel like a stress relief, but it comes with high risks. Substance abuse adversely affects both mental and physical health.
Get support- Everyone needs support in their life. Notice which friends, teachers, etc. make you feel best about yourself and let them in. The support of caring individuals is important along with learning how you can best support yourself.
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