What Is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.
Early Warning Signs
Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school.
Mental Health and Wellness
Positive mental health allows people to:
- Realize their full potential
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities
Ways to maintain positive mental health include:
- Getting professional help if you need it
- Connecting with others
- Staying positive
- Getting physically active
- Helping others
- Getting enough sleep
- Developing coping skills
Well-being is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us that people perceive that their lives are going well. Good living conditions (e.g., housing, employment) are fundamental to well-being. Tracking these conditions is important for public policy. However, many indicators that measure living conditions fail to measure what people think and feel about their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions and resilience, the realization of their potential, or their overall satisfaction with life—i.e., their “well-being.”, Well-being generally includes global judgments of life satisfaction and feelings ranging from depression to joy.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing are
- Be Active,
- Keep Learning,
- Give, and
- Take Notice.
Why is well-being useful for public health?
- √ Well-being integrates mental health (mind) and physical health (body) resulting in more holistic approaches to disease prevention and health promotion.
- √ Well-being is a valid population outcome measure beyond morbidity, mortality, and economic status that tells us how people perceive their life is going from their own perspective.
- √ Well-being is an outcome that is meaningful to the public.
- √ Advances in psychology, neuroscience, and measurement theory suggest that √ √ √well-being can be measured with some degree of accuracy.
- √ Results from cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental studies find that well-being is associated with:
- Self-perceived health.
- Healthy behaviors.
- Mental and physical illness.
- Social connectedness.
- Factors in the physical and social environment.
- Well-being can provide a common metric that can help policy makers shape and compare the effects of different policies (e.g., loss of greenspace might impact well-being more so than commercial development of an area).
- Measuring, tracking and promoting well-being can be useful for multiple stakeholders involved in disease prevention and health promotion.
Well-being is associated with numerous health-, job-, family-, and economically-related benefits.For example, higher levels of well-being are associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity.Individuals with high levels of well-being are more productive at work and are more likely to contribute to their communities.
Previous research lends support to the view that the negative affect component of well-being is strongly associated with neuroticism and that positive affect component has a similar association with extraversion. This research also supports the view that positive emotions—central components of well-being—are not merely the opposite of negative emotions, but are independent dimensions of mental health that can, and should be fostered. Although a substantial proportion of the variance in well-being can be attributed to heritable factors, environmental factors play an equally if not more important role.
How does well-being relate to health promotion?
Health is more than the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows people to realize their aspirations, satisfy their needs and to cope with the environment in order to live a long, productive, and fruitful life. In this sense, health enables social, economic and personal development fundamental to well-being.Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health.Environmental and social resources for health can include: peace, economic security, a stable ecosystem, and safe housing. Individual resources for health can include: physical activity, healthful diet, social ties, resiliency, positive emotions, and autonomy. Health promotion activities aimed at strengthening such individual, environmental and social resources may ultimately improve well-being.
How is well-being defined?
There is no consensus around a single definition of well-being, but there is general agreement that at minimum, well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning. In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good. For public health purposes, physical well-being (e.g., feeling very healthy and full of energy) is also viewed as critical to overall well-being. Researchers from different disciplines have examined different aspects of well-being that include the following:
- Physical well-being.
- Economic well-being.
- Social well-being.
- Development and activity.
- Emotional well-being.
- Psychological well-being.
- Life satisfaction.
- Domain specific satisfaction.
- Engaging activities and work.
Examples of Mental Wellbeing
Wellbeing exists in myriad ways. These mental wellbeing examples are but a handful of ways people can be mentally healthy:
- The man who loses his job and uses his love of learning to take some classes to start a new career path that better matches his passions
- The woman who makes it a point to attend or visit concerts, plays, and museums because she feels joy and inspiration when she does
- The teen athlete who is cut from a team so, with determination and grit, trains hard to make the team next season
- The woman who once experienced a period of homelessness and now gives back by volunteering in the organizations that helped her in the past
- The man whose wife had an affair lets go of bitterness and resentment by forgiving her and divorcing her civilly and then moves on with his life
- The human being with anxiety and depression who gets out of bed every single day, creates a goal for the day, and takes small steps toward it and acknowledging the bravery and progress at the end of the day
The components of mental wellbeing are within reach of everyone, and it has nothing at all to do with the presence or absence of illness.Someone living with a mental illness can achieve mental wellbeing; likewise, someone who has neither mental nor physical illnesses could have a poor state of mental wellbeing.