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What is Mental Health?

The term “mental health” is often confusing in its meaning and thus can make it unclear as to when help may be needed.


Mental health includes your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act and helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. While it is more commonly discussed among adults, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood.


The World Health Organization defines a mentally healthy person as “...a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”


Just like physical health, mental health has a spectrum from healthy to illness. While it is fairly straightforward for someone to determine that they need to see a doctor for a physical condition, it tends to be more difficult to determine that point with mental health. We are raised to be able to recognize several warning signs of physical illness like a cough, fever, headache, etc. However, we aren’t raised in the same way with diagnosing a mental health issue. This often leads to a very black and white perception of mental health; either you have a mental health issue or you don’t.


The issue with this mentality is that help is often sought out much later than necessary. Continuing with the physical illness analogy, if you had a cough, you might try to get extra sleep that night. If you then developed a fever, you might stay home and rest. If you then developed a painful headache, you might go to the doctor. Unfortunately, that usually isn’t the case with a mental health condition. If this was a mental health condition, you’re likely to ignore all the signs until it’s time for the doctor. This lack of care early on isn’t to the fault of the person, we just aren’t taught to know the warning signs of a mental health condition very well.


So, what are the warning signs that you should look out for?

  • Unusual changes in behavior or mood

  • Low energy or no energy

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Eating too much or too little

  • Fighting or yelling with family and friends

  • Socializing less with friends and family

  • Feeling hopeless or helpless

  • Feeling like nothing matters

  • Feeling unusually confused, angry, on edge, forgetful, worried, upset, or scared

  • Unexplained aches and pains

  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual

  • Experiencing severe mood swings

  • Thinking of harming yourself or others

  • Inability to perform daily tasks


These can all be warning signs that you may be struggling mentally. Additionally, if you see a loved one displaying any of these examples, it may be an indication that they are struggling. It is important to remember that if you recognize one of these signs in yourself, it doesn’t require you to immediately seek professional help. Just like with a physical condition, it usually depends on the severity of the symptom and the number of symptoms you are displaying. Just remember that preventative care is always the best form of care, so make sure to mentally check in with yourself from time to time.


Luckily, if you ever notice some of the symptoms in yourself and believe that you may need to reach out to others, there are plenty of ways to get help. You can reach out to friends and family, support groups, or professional therapists. Any of these resources can provide a great deal of help to overcome your struggles. If joining a support group is something that interests you, you can read about the benefits of joining one here.


Resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Health America

Psychology Today


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*This article is not intended to be professional or medical advice, as we are not trained professionals. It serves merely as a helpful guide, should you choose to utilize the information.

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