Mental health can be defined as the absence of mental disease or it can be defined as a state of being that also includes the biological, psychological or social factors which contribute to an individual’s mental state and ability to function within the environment.
For example, the World Health Organization includes realizing one’s potential, the ability to cope with normal life stresses and community contributions as core components of mental health. Other definitions extend beyond this to also include intellectual, emotional and spiritual development, positive self-perception, feelings of self-worth and physical health and intrapersonal harmony. Prevention strategies may aim to decrease the rates of mental illness but promotion strategies aim at improving mental health. The possible scope of promotion initiatives usually depends on the definition of mental health.
Determinants of mental health
Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time. For example, violence and persistent socio-economic pressures are recognized risks to mental health. The clearest evidence is associated with sexual violence.
Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations.
There are specific psychological and personality factors that make people vulnerable to mental health problems. Biological risks include genetic factors.
Mental health promotion and protection
Mental health promotion involves actions that improve psychological well-being. This may involve creating an environment that supports mental health. An environment that respects and protects basic civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights is fundamental to mental health. Without the security and freedom provided by these rights, it is difficult to maintain a high level of mental health.
According to WHO, National mental health policies should be concerned both with mental disorders and with broader issues that promote mental health. Mental health promotion should be mainstreamed into governmental and nongovernmental policies and programmes. In addition to the health sector, it is essential to involve the education, labour, justice, transport, environment, housing, and welfare sectors.
What Are The 7 Components Of Mental Health?
Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and it is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. The 7 components of mental health includes;
One of the most obvious yet under recognized factors in the development of mental health is nutrition. Just like the heart, stomach and liver, the brain is an organ that requires different amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water to remain healthy.
An integrated approach that equally reflects the interplay of biological factors, as well as broader psychological, emotional and social conceptions of mental health, is vital in order to reduce the prevalence and the distress caused by mental health problems: diet is a cornerstone of this integrated approach. There is emerging evidence that good quality nutrition may play a role in contributing to the prevention of mental health problems and in the management and recovery from these when and if they do occur.
A certain amount of stress is a normal part of daily life. Small doses of stress help people meet deadlines, be prepared for presentations, be productive and arrive on time for important events. However, long-term stress can become harmful. When stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, the risks for mental health problems and medical problems increase. Chronic stress increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety in some people. The precise mechanisms of how stress is linked to mental ill-health are being uncovered.
Scientists found that the earliest response to stress happens in the brain within seconds of perceiving a ‘stressor’. Chemicals which signal between nerve cells (neurotransmitters) are released. These include serotonin and adrenaline. Following this, stress hormones are released, which particularly affect areas of the brain key for memory and regulating emotions. Repeated stress changes how well these systems are able to control the stress response.
Researchers are also investigating how these systems are involved in anxiety and depression, suggesting a biochemical link between stress and mental illness. Recent studies have shown that long-term stress can change the structure of the brain, especially in areas supporting learning and memory. It can affect both nerve cells (grey matter) and the connections between them (white matter). It is possible these changes, along with other factors, can increase the likelihood of developing mental illness.
Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you brings things back into balance.
Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Sleep deprivation affects psychological state and mental health. And those with mental health problems are more likely to have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Traditionally, clinicians treating patients with psychiatric disorders have viewed insomnia and other sleep disorders as symptoms. But studies in both adults and children suggests that sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. This research has clinical application, because treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a co-occurring mental health problem.
Brain activity fluctuates during sleep, increasing and decreasing during different sleep stages that make up the sleep cycle. In NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, overall brain activity slows, but there are quick bursts of energy. In REM sleep, brain activity picks up rapidly, which is why this stage is associated with more intense dreaming.
Each stage plays a role in brain health, allowing activity in different parts of the brain to ramp up or down and enabling better thinking, learning, and memory. Research has also uncovered that brain activity during sleep has profound effects on emotional and mental health
Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal ideas or behaviors.
Physical activity is a world-wide recognized health topic. Individuals and health professionals are becoming increasingly aware of its benefits as well as the implications faced through inactivity. Along with the physical benefits, research has shown physical activity to have a positive impact on individual’s mental health. People with mental health disorders experience higher rates of disability and mortality.
There are numerous hypotheses that attempt to determine the mechanism of the effect of physical activity on mental health. These can be identified as being psychological or physiological. Research on the hypotheses is limited and it is thought that the true effect is though a combination of psychological and physiological mechanisms. A cohort study found a protective association between physical activity and the emotional problems. This suggests that physical activity has the potential to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Social isolation has long been known as a key trigger for mental illness, while supportive relationships with friends, family and neighbors are beneficial to the mental health of individuals and the population. Other forms of social interaction such as volunteering are also known to boost wellbeing.
People with supportive friends and family generally have better mental and physical health than those who lack these networks. The same is true for those who take part in churches, clubs and voluntary organizations. A new piece of research shows that a good method for people to improve both their memory and mood is to talk to someone for at least ten minutes. The study was done at the University of Michigan. Evidently, socializing with people is a form of exercise that requires attention, effort and alertness, all of which are important aspects of memory.
Kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. We know from the research that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. The research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships.
Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. According to Mayo Clinic, kindness has been shown to decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. People who give of themselves in a balanced way also tend to be healthier and live longer.
There is evidence that people who belong to a faith community, or who hold religious or spiritual beliefs, have better mental health. So, the relevance of spirituality is now being recognized in courses for mental health care students and practitioners.
Both religion and spirituality can have a positive impact on mental health. In some ways, they provide the same impact. For example: Both religion and spirituality can help a person tolerate stress by generating peace, purpose and forgiveness. But benefits generally vary between the two due to their different nature.
Religion gives people something to believe in, provides a sense of structure and typically offers a group of people to connect with over similar beliefs. These facets can have a large positive impact on mental health—research suggests that religiosity reduces suicide rates, alcoholism and drug use. Here are some of religion’s main mental health benefits. Read: How To Tell If Someone Is Faking Mental Illness