Mental health is different from “mental illness” or “mental disorder”. The World Health Organization defines mental health as:
“A state of well-being in which an individual realises 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.”
Good mental health is related to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. It is about being psychologically resilient in the face of the stresses and strains of daily life and looking after our wellness and happiness.
A variety of factors can affect our mental health. These include the lifestyle choices we make, biology (our genes), our finances, and social issues such as relationships.
It is common for all individuals to experience poor mental health at some point during their lives. We can be well and functioning, or there may be times we find ourselves struggling. If we have poor mental health, we often find that the way we think, feel, or act feels difficult to cope with. We might not enjoy the things we used to like, or we might feel sad for longer than we usually do. We might also feel unable to control our emotions or behaviours.
When our mental health becomes unbalanced, it is a good idea to seek support, and there are various ways to do that:
- Talking therapies help individuals understand their difficulties and support them to develop positive coping strategies.
- Medication can improve individuals’ level of functioning by increasing “happy chemicals” in the brain, such as serotonin.
- Lifestyle changes can also have an impact. Adequate sleep, eating a diet rich in nutrients, seeking support from your network or your friends and family, and participating in meaningful activities can all facilitate well-being.
Dr Sarah Williams
Counselling Psychologist / Psychological Counsellor
The International Medical Centre