Mental health is a growing concern in our society, and for good reason. According to the Mental Health Foundation, more than 15 per cent of all adults will experience a mental health problem in any given week, and the figures increase to almost 25 per cent among young people. All over the world, mental health issues account for a significant percentage of the overall disease burden, and the figures seem to be on the rise. Thankfully, mental health is seen as increasingly important and in recent years is becoming destigmatized as people discuss it openly more and more.
The truth is that mental health problems can affect everyone, irrespective of their age, social class, and financial situation. Being 'successful' in life does not make you immune to suffering mental health issues. While it’s easy to link success with happiness, and happiness with sound mental health, this isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.
Sadly, we’re all familiar with recent high-profile suicides involving celebrities like Robin Williams or designers like Kate Spade and Alexander McQueen. They were all successful, wealthy, and accomplished, which teaches us a lesson on why mental health is important: mental illness can affect everyone, just like physical illness.
On this note, there’s a tendency to give more importance to physical health than to mental health. This bias towards the physical may be due to the fact that physical disease is more obvious, easier to spot. The medical field is concerned with problems that can be objectively measured (such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc.), but mental illness and its symptoms aren’t as visible as their physical counterparts. If anything, this makes it ever more important to be familiar with mental health warning signs and risk factors.
Mental health issues can affect everyone
In any case, the importance of mental health cannot and should not be underestimated. Keep reading to find out why.
Research shows that an unhealthy mind will sooner or later manifest itself into an unhealthy body. An Oxford University study revealed that some disorders can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years – that’s more than heavy smoking. Others have found that people suffering from mental illness are at a higher risk of heart problems and of early death due to heart disease. The list goes on, linking poor mental health to diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune skin conditions, obesity, etc.
Moreover, some sources describe mental health as social, psychological, and emotional well-being. When this is absent, we become less functional in our daily routine: studies show that mental illness can make us unable to hold down a job or even to get a job in the first place.
“Why is mental health important? Research shows that an unhealthy mind will sooner or later manifest itself into an unhealthy body.”
Other studies show that mental disorders put an enormous strain on personal relationships, weakening family and friendship bonds, which in turn can make people feel isolated and worsen their symptoms. To sum it up, the importance of mental health lies in its connection to physical health and the essential role it plays if we want to enjoy quality of life and happiness.
The most common mental health problems both in the UK and the US are anxiety and depression, which affect between 10 and 18 per cent of the population respectively. The figures are similar at global level, as it’s estimated the depression affects a staggering 300 million people worldwide.
Anxiety and depression are important mental health conditions
Also ranking high are bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and phobias or psychoses. It’s clear that mental health problems are widespread, and in fact, the figures could be higher, as in many cases mental health issues go unreported or undiagnosed.
There’s no single cause of mental health issues, since different factors affect people differently, but overall we can classify risk factors into three types:
Some people are born with gene abnormalities or chemical imbalances that affect the brain function. Exposure to toxic substances or even bacterial infections are other risk factors.
“The importance of mental health lies in its connection to physical health and the essential role it plays in quality of life and happiness.”
The variety of factors teaches us something about why mental health is important: there are so many factors involved, that no one is really immune to the risks.
It’s important to be familiar with the warning signs of mental health issues, so you can address them in their early stages. Here are a list of some of the most noticeable mental health symptoms:
Mental health is made up of different building blocks that work together, so it’s important to target as many bases as possible. Some practical ways to maintain positive mental health include:
Suffering a mental health condition doesn’t mean you’re flawed or weak and is not a reflection of your personality. You should understand that it can happen to anyone, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Build a support network with people you feel comfortable discussing your feelings with and who share your views about why mental health is important.
Struggling with mental health? A support network is important
Take breaks and use that time productively to do things that you enjoy and that foster your creativity and sense of worth.
From getting enough sleep to eating well. Being well rested and getting enough nutrients has a direct effect on how your brain works. Track what you eat/drink and your mood to see if you can spot any patterns.
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Skills such as being able to identify negative thoughts so they don’t snowball into mood- and health-affecting disorders. Focus on how to become stronger and more resilient to stress, life changes, other people’s comments. On that note, mindfulness and gratitude are the crucial building blocks of resilience.
Exercise can boost your self-esteem and have a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Choose something that’s motivating enough so you can stick to it.
Don’t let the stigma attached to mental health issues stop you from getting stronger. Fortunately, nowadays mental health issues are being openly discussed and the importance of mental health is being recognised as a top priority. There’s professional help out there, and you’re not weaker or worthless for needing it and reaching out – if anything, you’re smarter for recognising your needs and taking action.
Being aware of the importance of mental health is one of the best ways to protect and nurture your self. This is a challenging but rewarding journey, which you can start today by using the tips we described above to strengthen your mind and live a happier life. ●
A social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.
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