MENTAL HEALTH & WELLBEING
Every one of us have a level of mental health. Mental Health is classified by the World Health Organisation as, “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his/her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and are able to make a contribution to their community”. Mental Health is important for the growth and development within a community. Health care professionals would initially look at treatments to address the individual’s circumstances, rather than looking at ‘the bigger picture’ which could greatly reduce the illness and therefore improve the individual’s outlook on life.
Mental Wellbeing looks at the psychological and sociological components of life. Being able to ‘cope’ through positive hedonic or eudemonic components allow us to lead a happier lifestyle, protect ourselves from trauma, which includes stress, anxiety and loss, which therefore reduces the burden of mental disorders within the UK and lessens the financial restraints on the NHS, which currently equate to £105 million each year. Maintaining mental wellbeing at an individual level is important. It is essential to remember that someone who suffers with a mental health disorder could also experience a high or low mental wellbeing, depending on what is happening in their lives. Treatments may ‘mask’ the condition for a certain amount of time but it is mental wellbeing we should be looking to change, in order to discourage relapse and aid in managing long-term illness.
The earlier we try to improve mental wellbeing, the richer a person’s life can be and the more resilient we become. As a result, we experience better health and living standards, social interaction and productivity in the workplace. There is a reduced need for treatment, therefore placing less of a strain on the NHS and other health care professionals. Negative health choices, such as smoking or alcohol/drug abuse, are also lessened, giving us a better chance to lead a healthier lifestyle and avoid medical complications later in life. 'Flourishing' in your day to day existence and having a positive mental wellbeing is essential.
Consequences of low levels of wellbeing include exclusion, discrimination, lack of public support and education, unemployment, homelessness, domestic abuse, obesity, sexual risk and poor nutrition, to name but a few. Being able to manage and adapt to stressful situations becomes more difficult, therefore decreasing the individual’s mental wellbeing and leading to either relapse, if they have suffered with a mental disorder before, or a new condition, which can be daunting not just the individual, but society too.
The Royal Society of Psychiatrics list anxiety, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, addiction and substance abuse, self harm and bereavement and loss under ‘mental health conditions. Let's look at two of these in more detail:
When someone important passes away, feelings of guilt, anger and sadness can overwhelm us and these feelings don’t usually disappear quickly and sometimes last for years, unless correct prescription is given. Professional help and support is recommended in this instance, unless the individual can confide in a person closer to them to help with the negative feelings which they are experiencing.
Anxiety is a state of unease related to a situation which can be real or perceived. It can become more severe – if for example, the individual experiences anxiety without the threat being there. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets and it can interfere with everyday life, such as going to work or family life. Genetic, emotional or social issues usually are the triggers for anxiety and types of this mental health condition include PTSD, OCD and GAD. Signs and symptoms of anxiety can vary; irritability, inability to sleep well, frequent urination, constant worrying, poor concentration, palpitations etc. Anxiety can make the individual feel like a failure. Often, anxiety is shamed by society and can lead onto other medical conditions, such a prolonged depression.
If you suffer with a mental health condition, it is difficult to function in every day living making room for low self esteem, reduced self worth and poor physical health.
Time and time again, studies have proven that leading a more physical lifestyle will improve not just your physique but also your mental wellbeing. When we train, our bodies initiate a biological cascade of events that results in the release of endorphins and serotonin. These are the chemicals that make you happy and put you in a better mood. Lower rates of depression and anxiety in all ages are seen in individuals who participate in regular exercise.
In addition to keeping active, it is recommended that we take up something new or rediscover an old interest, which will also assist in maintaining and improving mental wellbeing. When we start learning an instrument, take up a new hobby such as pottery, start a new sport or become creative and write a poem, for example, our self esteem is enhanced and we start to feel more engaged, not just with ourselves but with our surroundings.
Which leads me nicely on to my next point; taking notice. Being mindful of the world around you, (the noises, the smells, the tastes, your thoughts and feelings), can greatly improve your health and wellbeing. Research has shown that if you practice this art of ‘being more acutely aware of your surroundings’, you will feel more fulfilled with life and have an enhanced wellbeing, several years longer than you would without encouraging this discipline.
Giving is something which I feel can have the greatest reward for your own personal wellbeing. Helping others is something which can have lasting effects. Looking outwards, rather than inwards, encourages an increase in the neuronal response in the brain and therefore will make you feel wanted and a valuable part of the community around you.
Improvements in all of these areas can decrease mental health conditions and help individuals to feel good about themselves, therefore boosting a more positive outlook on life and increased level of positive mental wellbeing.