Mental Health is not absence of Mental Illness! Since May is Mental health awareness month, I decided to write this blog to promote awareness on this important topic.
When the world was fighting to overcome the effects of COVID – 19, one crucial factor in play was psycho – social health of a person. This became challenging as one cannot see how the other person is feeling mentally. We don’t know if the person is really doing well. I am talking beyond the short exchange of, “how are you?; I am doing good, thank you.”
It is easy to check the signs and symptoms of a visible disease, and perform a full physical exam, maybe also run some lab tests. But how do we find and diagnose person’s feelings?
Difficult, Right? The first thing that comes to my mind, and may be yours too, is to just talk to the person! Have an actual conversation with them. But again, is it always accurate? Have you met a person who seemed very happy, is always on his/her A game, and you find out that very person was going through some hard times due to mental illness?
What is Mental Health?
As defined by WHO, “mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Mental health does NOT mean just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
Mental health is a state of mind that affects different people differently, or even a same person differently at different times of life, and has many factors to take into consideration. Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors affect the mental health of an individual. Evidence suggests that violence of any kind, along with a persistent socio-economic pressure are huge risk factors for poor mental health. Additionally, rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill- health and human rights violations are associated with poor mental health.
Are Mental Health Problems common?
As per a CDC report, more than 50% of individuals have mental health problems sometime in their lifetime. Evidence suggests that 1 in every 5 Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness. This is almost like one member in each family! This is a shocking truth of our society today.
Mental Health does not Discriminate:
Just like any other health problems, mental health problems can happen to anyone and everyone. As I mentioned above, there are some risk factors that are associated with mental illness. But it can affect me, to you and for that matter to anyone, at any time of life.
For example, during COVID, we saw a huge spike in mental illness among various population groups for a variety of reasons. Health care workers were stretched too thin! The younger generation was fighting to keep their social life alive! The older population was scared to not be able to get appropriate medical help etc..
Early Warning signs that someone is in need of help:
Here are a few examples of feelings or behaviors that a person might be experiencing: Change in appetite — either eating too much, or too less
- Having low to no energy
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling hopeless
- Change in emotions – feeling more angry, upset, worried, scared or feeling on edge
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to concentrate
The list does not end here. Please know there are many other signs for mental illness. If you notice some abnormal/ unusual behavior in your close friend or in a loved ones, talking with that person about the changes is recommended.
How to Stay Healthy Mentally?
American Medical Association (AMA) shares very useful tips on how to stay healthy mentally for health care providers, for staff members as well as for the patients. I am going to share a few tips here for health care workers. I am also adding the link in the resource section.
Staying mentally healthy means different for every individual. It may simply mean getting enough sleep, exercise, having a “me” time, playing a sport, or meditating.
- Take care of yourself
- Use the coping strategies that have worked for you in the past.
- Allow yourself to feel the feelings.
- Remind yourself of importance of your work
- Recognize when you need help, and ask for help when you need it.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 800-273-8255