Everyone and I mean everyone will experience a challenge or struggle with their mental health. Now before you get upset and defensive about my statement let me share with you the definition of mental health. The World Health Organization defines mental health as 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 can contribute to his or her community.
In other words, your mental health is your general state of well-being. It’s your emotions, thoughts and feelings, your ability to solve problems, overcome difficulties, your social connections, and your understanding of the world around us. And because it encompasses all of that, everyday life stressors such as work, family and other interpersonal relationships can affect your mental health. It fluctuates. And it should because good mental health means being able to experience and cope with a range of emotions.
We all experience moments in our lives in which we feel down, stressed, or overwhelmed. Again, this is completely normal. Just because you may be experiencing a state of poor mental health because of a life event doesn’t mean you have a mental illness. Conversely, you can have a mental illness and be in a good state of mental health through successful treatment.
Although people use them interchangeably, mental illness is a range of conditions and disorders clinically diagnosed that have an impact on how you think, behave and interact with other people. And even those illnesses can range from moderate to severe.
Often times we want to look at mental health and mental illness on a continuum line with happiness on one end and mental illness on the other but it’s not that simple. Poor mental health can lead to mental illness especially anxiety disorder and depression which are the two most common forms of mental illness.
Signs of good mental health
- Building and maintaining healthy relationships
- Resiliency to life stressors
- Expressing a range of emotions from positive to negative and can cope healthily with emotions
- Self-reliant and independent
- A sense of belonging and empathy towards others
- Clear and rational thinking
Signs of mental illness
- Isolation and pulling away from people and activities
- Thoughts of self-harm and/or suicide
- Changes in sleep pattern or appetite
- Unmotivated and withdrawn
- Illogical thinking
- Overall sense of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feeling low, numb, irritable, tearful, or worthless
Achieving good mental health and managing a mental illness is all possible by taking care of our physical health, maintaining a support system, and utilizing several resources that can sustain us through life stressors. Prioritizing your mental health has to remain a top priority always.