Importance of mental health in healthcare
General wellness is a combination of good physical and mental health. The mental health of a person is an admixture of a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. A healthy mind and a healthy body are essential for good overall health. Good mental health goes a long way in improving the quality of life we lead. We appreciate things better and have a positive outlook towards life in general. Poor mental health can only mean that the individual is left suffering. Mental fitness keeps our mental health in good condition. Good mental health is a prerequisite for any individual to have the ability to face challenging times in one’s personal and professional lives. One can also definitively say that our ability to keep mental health in good shape can also mean that our physical health is likely to be in good shape. An example of this is stress. Managing stress well can mean that there is less pressure on the heart. Life is a combination of positive and negative experiences across the spectrum. A mentally tough or resilient person remains unaffected by all the stresses and challenges that arise because of all these experiences.
How to determine if mental health is affected?
It is very difficult to find out when a person’s mental health is impacted. One has to watch closely for mood changes, behavioural patterns and other tell tales of mental sickness. A person may not even realise that he/she is experiencing mental illness as there are no alerts. We can certainly look for warning signs of mental illness such as change in sleep patterns, mood changes, suicidal thoughts, self-harm thoughts, constant fights with friends and family members, fights with strangers for no apparent reason, decrease in energy levels, overeating/undereating, inability to perform day-to-day tasks, indulging in dangerous and deviant behaviour, substance abuse and alcoholism, unexplained confusion, hearing voices and persistent despair.
Is it the environment or genetics?
Causes for mental illness can be both genetic and the environment. Certain mental illnesses are carried from generation to generation and runs among family members. Autism, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are more likely to be caused by biological factors players. Environmental factors such as stress, prolonged exposure to certain weather conditions and pollution can cause mental illness. PTSD is a typical mental illness caused by environmental factors. Abuse, especially during childhood can cause conditions like depression, personality disorders and anxiety. In some cases, lifestyle can lead to mental illness. Substance abuse and risky sexual behaviour are examples of this.
Why is good mental health important?
When a person suffers from mental illness, it can affect the health of the person in general in addition to impacting relationships with others. Good mental health is important for maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends. They also play an important role in building mental resilience among individuals. One is also more productive and creative when the mental health is good. One can think clearly and control anxiety even when faced with challenging situations. Mental wellness can help boost one’s self esteem. When one is challenged with mental illness, he/she appears to doubt themselves and are hard on themselves. Confidence also takes a beating. When mental health is good, quality of one’s life also improves.
How does one face mental health challenges?
There are several things that can be done when faced with mental illness. A consultation with a mental healthcare professional is beneficial. One can confide in the trained professional who can decide what would work best – counselling, therapy, medication, hospitalisation or a combination of all these. The professional can also put the patient or client in touch with the right person for further treatment. A mental health assessment can also be taken to find out if the individual is suffering from anxiety, anger, mood swings or depression.
Reaching out to family members and friends is also recommended as they can be forewarned about the health challenge. Some of them may choose to take the lead in taking up a supportive role as the individual faces the illness. A supportive ecosystem of friends and family goes a long way in the treatment and recovery phases. They can support and serve as the ultimate bulwark even if further aggressive treatment protocols are advised by the treating doctor. The individual can also try to educate oneself by reading relevant material. Educating oneself creates greater awareness on the support mechanisms to reach out to.
What happens if the mental illness is left untreated?
Mental illness, if left untreated, can have serious consequences for the individual, family and the society. Stigma is one of the biggest reasons for not seeking medical assistance. Lost earnings decreased productivity and high hospitalisation expenses are some of the problems when treatment is not sought. In the US, life expectancy of the untreated is lower by 25 years compared to the general population. Dropouts from high school are also significantly higher in the case of the students who do not seek treatment for mental illness. Suicide is another major consequence if left untreated. Given the extremely damaging outcomes, everyone with mental illness should be encouraged to seek treatment.
Maintaining mental health
There are several ways one can maintain mental health. The most important ones include:
- Sleep: Quality and duration of sleep are very important. To the extent possible one should sleep at the same time every day.
- Resilience: Building resilience and coping mechanisms to withstand shocks is critical to good mental health.
- Exercise: Regular exercise is a must. Endorphins (pleasure hormones) are secreted when one exercises. They control pain and stress.
- Professional help: It is no longer a stigma to seek professional help. It is a must!
- Meditation: Focus, better mental alertness and calmness develop as a result of meditation.
- Yoga: Is a great relaxant and sleep promoter.
- Keeping in touch with loved ones: One should feel loved and connected with friends and family as they play a very important role in supporting mental health.
- Balanced diet: Lots of fruits and vegetables, and nuts improves mental health.
- Sufficient breaks: Take breaks to break the monotony and stay focussed.
- Opening to others: Important to confide and not keep everything within oneself.
Absence of mental illness does not mean that one is enjoying good mental health. Stigma and discrimination inhibit people from seeking professional help. One can lead a fulfilling life even if one is impacted by mental illness. Seek treatment and get back to good mental health. Living with a person with mental health issues can be demanding. Remember that the impacted person immensely benefits because of the care provided. Support and help should always be actively sought to maintain good mental health.