What is Mental Health?
Updated: May 5
Rohan, who is known for his intelligence, popularity, and numerous talents, appears to conceal his authentic self when asked to display his abilities in front of the rest of the school. Hence her class teacher wanted to have a conversation with him. After the classes ended, she requested that Rohan remain behind as she had something important to discuss with him. When Rohan was confronted, he become quite uncomfortable and was startled as to what to tell her. When probing if there was anything she could assist with, Rohan responded by saying, "I can't seem to think clearly, my thoughts become muddled about what to say and what not to say. I feel like the world has shifted and that nothing will be the same anymore." As seen in the case of Rohan, he is severely afraid of social situations. It's common for people to experience similar feelings and thoughts at various points in their lives. These emotions and experiences are not limited to a specific group of people and can be faced by anyone at any time. And if these conditions aren’t paid attention to, they can become severe and have a permanent scar on one's life.
Just like physical health, we need to take care of ourselves on a mental level as well, it needs to be managed to reduce the risk of affecting our peace of mind or to say OUR MENTAL HEALTH. What exactly is mental health and how is it affected? Just as it's important to maintain physical health, our inner well-being is also crucial for our overall happiness and satisfaction in life. As we progress from childhood to adolescence and eventually into adulthood, there is an increasing emphasis on maintaining good mental health.
As we navigate through the ups and downs of our lives, it all comes down to three things: How we think, How we feel and How to behave.
When someone feels overwhelmed and has experienced pain and disappointment in the past, they often carry those negative emotions and experiences with them throughout their life, affecting their present and future.
There are numerous potential causes for mental health issues such as having bad memories of childhood, not having proper nurturing or parenting, social isolation, having to face discrimination and stigma, having long-term physical health problems, and many more. The list can go on forever. However, it is important to understand that these situations let out feelings and thoughts that tend to linger and get bad enough to interfere with daily life, which as a result deteriorates our mental well-being. Although being problem free is not a requirement for having a healthy mind, as at some point everyone experiences worry, sadness, or stress and this is completely natural. As I describe the various challenges people may face, I can relate to many of them myself and recognize that they are also experienced by others in some form or another at some point in their lives. Despite being a shared experience, mental health struggles are often overlooked and under-supported, with those suffering receiving little attention or sympathy.
There is often confusion between the terms "mental health" and "mental illness". While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings. Mental health refers to a person's overall emotional and psychological well-being, while mental illness refers to a diagnosable condition that affects a person's thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
It's important to understand the distinction between these two terms, as they can have different implications and perceptions when used in conversation. Even after having many ways and exceptional services that help people, there’s still a stigma around the word mental illness and if both these terms (mental health and mental illness ) are the same.
Let's dive in a little further! Diagnosed diseases that influence thoughts and behavior are known as mental illnesses and a person can have mental health concerns without having a diagnosable mental illness. Even though everyone occasionally experiences mental health issues, not everyone has a mental illness. Mental health struggles can affect anyone, regardless of age, social status, gender, or race. Mental health issues do not discriminate and can impact individuals from all walks of life. Mental diseases make it more difficult to maintain mental health because they alter how a person feels, thinks, acts, or perceives the world. Different mental diseases have different symptoms, some of which are difficult to comprehend and understand fully. Based on these facts, it can be concluded that mental illness and disorders are part of the broader concept of mental health, and a diagram is provided for visual clarity.
The importance of good mental health is reflected in everything we do, think, or say. Maintaining positive mental health and dealing with mental health issues are critical to maintaining constructive behavior, emotions, and thoughts. Focusing on mental health can increase productivity, improve our self-image and improve relationships. Taking care of our mental health not only improves our daily functioning but can help us manage—or even prevent—some of the physical health problems directly related to mental illness. Beyond everything else we’ve already discussed, mental health is a major factor when we make difficult choices, deal with stress, and relate to other people. A person's mental health can change throughout their life depending on external conditions. It is important to note that having a mental illness or disorder does not prevent someone from having good mental health, and anyone can improve their mental well-being with the right support and assistance.
Seeking help for mental well-being is a crucial step toward improving one's overall mental health. There are various resources and support services available for individuals who are struggling with their mental health, including therapy, counseling, support groups, medication, and self-care practices. The important thing is to reach out for help and find what works best for the individual. It's also important to remember that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of strength, not weakness and that taking care of one's mental health is just as important as taking care of one's physical health. The case of Rohan discussed above is one such case.
Written by: Rashi Modani (BA Psychology - TY, SNDT University, Mumbai)
Proofread by: A Ph.D. Scholar at Christ University, Bangalore