Mental Health: An Issue that Needs Awareness

Why Should we Care?
As per the World Health Organization mental health problems affect one in four people at some time in life. About 800,000 people worldwide commit suicide because of mental health. In line with these stats, mental health issues are one of the leading causes of health problems in the Netherlands; and a major burden to the healthcare system.

Understanding Mental Health and Mental Illness
Being mentally healthy leads to having the least amount of health related problems and is just as important as being physically fit. It results in greater satisfaction with life, clear life goals, healthy social functioning, and being of high resilience.

Your mental health can be affected by the stress of balancing work and family, loss, or inability to cope with difficult problems. In addition, a change in environment can lead to mental illness and such changes affect different people in different ways – depending on their genetic makeup. As such, the presence of any of these factors, or a combination thereof, can trigger a mental illness.

There are over 200 classified forms of mental illnesses, some of the common ones are: anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorder, mood disorders, schizophrenia, self-injury, suicide, and violence.

Symptoms and Signs
Although the symptoms vary depending on the disorder, and the individual, some of the examples are:

  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Excessive anger and hostility
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Prolonged sadness

Even though, experiencing just one or two of these symptoms may not be a sign of a mental illness; experiencing several of these symptoms along with the inability to focus at work, school, or daily tasks may point to a mental heal issue and would typically require further evaluation. These symptoms can be noticed by parents of children, classmates, teachers, friends, and/or family.

mental health

What You Can Do For Your Mental Health
Eat a healthy diet: Have you heard of “you are what you eat?” Food provides us energy, and nutrients that our body and mind needs to function properly. Consuming sugar and caffeine in large amounts can have detrimental effects on our body and mind. A healthy balanced diet is a key to good physical and mental health. A healthy balanced diet includes: different types of fruit and vegetables; wholegrain cereals or bread; nuts and seeds; dairy products; oily fish; and drink eight ounces of water a day.

Exercise: Numerous studies have been conducted on the link between exercise and mental health. The results have shown that exercise has positive effects on individuals with mental health issues. Exercise results in better mood, increased self-esteem, and are a great distraction. Specifically, aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling, running, dancing, gardening have proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

Take a break: At times our lives can get busy and we can lose track of time and it is during times like these that by giving yourself some “me” time can help you de-stress. Stop for five minutes and meditate, drink tea, listen to music, etc. Perhaps, it’s time to take a vacation? Do whatever needs to be done in order to give yourself some breathing room and re-charge. This could vary anywhere from taking a 5-minute break to take an extended vacation.

Accept who you are: Everyone has their own strengths and we are all unique individuals. Therefore, focus on your strengths and don’t compare yourself with others. Feeling good about yourself will boost your self-esteem and confidence. If you want to change something about yourself, ask yourself if it is reasonable. If it is reasonable, make small realistic goals to get there.

Ask for help when needed: There is a stigma attached to mental health, due to which individuals do not like to share their feelings. You have the right to be selective as to who you will share your feelings with, but It is encouraged to talk about your feelings with a trusted loved one or colleague as you will build an invaluable support network and challenge the stigma and secrecy associated with it.

Primary medical care: it is important to continue going for follow-up check-ups. If needed, seek further assistance from a professional – counsellor, psychiatrist, local services offered by the community, etc.

Feeling sad, withdrawn, and isolated for a brief period, while coping with a traumatic event, is part of the human experience. However, when these emotions and feelings remain persistent and cause obstruction in your daily tasks, and affect your well-being, they could be a sign of mental illness. It is difficult to take the first step, but is important to seek out a selected and trusted network, obtain proper care, and get back to your daily life.

 By: Tahreem Raza


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