What is Mental Health?

Mental Health affects how we think, feel and act, and it therefore relates to our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Our mental health impacts how we handle emotions such as stress and pressure, as well as how we interact and relate to other people. It also impacts the choices we make, for example, when we feel stressed and under pressure, we may not think clearly, and can end up making mistakes.

Why is Mental Health important?

Just like we all have physical health, we all have mental health, and good mental health is just as important as good physical health. This is because when we’re in good mental health, we tend to cope better with what life throws at us, have better relationships with family and friends and perform better at work because we are able to play a full and active part in social and work aspects. Mental health is everyone’s business; when people suffer from poor mental health, this not only affects the individual, but also family and friends who are there to support their wellbeing and care for them.

We will all experience times when we feel down, stressed and frightened. These feelings will often pass, but sometimes they can develop into a more serious problem. This can happen to any one of us at any time. The most important thing to note is that everyone is different, and just as you may bounce back from a setback, others may not be able to bounce back, and instead they may be weighed down by the setback for a long period of time. This setback may not be something major, it could be something small, or a series of small events that lead to a more serious problem. Therefore, take note of the methods that can improve mental health, as detailed in the below section.

 Looking after our Mental Health

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to mental health, which hinders progress as people aren’t comfortable talking about their problems as they don’t want to feel like they are burdening those around them.

When someone comes to us with a mental health concern or problem, we will not always know how to deal with it, and this is okay. The important thing here is to listen to what they are saying and empathise with them, even if we can’t help them, it is vital that they know they have someone to talk to.

The Mental Health Foundation provides practical tips for looking after our mental health, which includes:

  1. Talking about feelings.
  2. Keeping active as regular exercise can help with concentration and sleep and help us feel better overall
  3. Eating well as a diet that is good for our physical health, will also be good for our mental health and help us function better.
  4. Drinking sensibly and not using excessive alcohol consumption to change our mood, as the effects from alcohol are only temporary so drinking as a means of escapism will not help long term.
  5. Keeping in touch with friends and family.
  6. Asking for help and avoiding always going alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support as and when required.
  7. Taking a break – even a five-minute pause just to give yourself some breathing space, and some ‘me time’.
  8. Doing something you enjoy, and spending time with those who lift your mood, and positively influence your mental wellbeing.

A lot of us won’t feel comfortable talking about our feelings, whether positive or negative, making it imperative that we are all able to spot the signs of mental ill health, to particularly help those that don’t feel able to voice their problems. These signs include:

  • Emotional: someone around you may be irritable, sensitive or show a sudden lack of confidence.
  • Cognitive: someone may make more mistakes or struggle to concentrate.
  • Behavioural: this could include taking time off, withdrawing or acting out of character.

Emotions make us all human but our emotions can also be overpowering, confusing and upsetting – in some situations, they can heighten anxiety and/or depression. To achieve wellbeing:

  • Give those around us space. Allow people to slow down and understand how they feel – without trying to fix anything.
  • “Inconvenient” emotions are likely to be bottled up and people will often act as though everything is fine, particularly when in group settings, i.e. work – but we can foster environments where people communicate openly about their feelings.
  • Labelling how we feel can give us the space to acknowledge emotions with intention instead of getting swept up by them.

Our mental health will not always stay the same and it will change as our circumstances change, particularly as we move through different stages of life. Always be kind to one another, show care and compassion, and don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re really feeling. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask people how they truly feel, and listen to them – sometimes we all just need a friendly face, and a shoulder to lean on.