What is Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing?
Though I will try my best to provide a simple overview, I do want to stress that mental health isn’t clear cut at all, and I worry it can be harmful to imply that it is. But for those who are looking for an overview of what mental health and wellbeing is, hopefully this will help.
What is mental health and mental wellbeing? A big question which has myriad answers. Ask a room full of people this question, and I can assure you that each answer will be slightly different.
What is mental health?
Mental health concerns the mind. It refers to how you may feel psychologically, and is linked to the emotional state you are in. A broad way by which we can measure it is our ability to cope with the normal day-to-day stresses and issues that life throws at us, and there are numerous factors that can affect it.
It is unique and individual to each person. There are lots of people with mental health issues out there, but each one could be experiencing them in a different way. Your mental health state can also change daily and is unpredictable – there is a reason that people call dealing with poor mental health ‘a battle’, and because of this, it can be difficult to look after. Also, because it isn’t so obvious, it can become something we are ashamed of and which is hard for ourselves and others to understand; both add to the negative stigma surrounding it, which can make it incredibly difficult to talk about.
Poor mental health can affect anyone, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. In fact, many people can never have any problems whereas others can struggle for a lifetime. But it must be understood – poor mental health isn’t a choice.
Types of mental health problems
Mental health problems can manifest in different ways, ranging from everyday worries to known disorders. Statistics published by the Mental Health Foundation indicate that the most common disorders in the UK are depression and anxiety, and other common mental disorders include phobias, OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But we also cannot forget mental health problems that have been classed as ‘serious conditions’, such as bipolar, schizophrenia and eating disorders.
Mental health problems can affect anyone, and they exhibit different symptoms. Though there are known symptoms to look out for, it isn’t always so simple. Some people might not seem to manifest any symptoms at all! But to find out more about each type of mental health problem in more depth, I recommend you visit Mind’s page, which describes and discusses signs and symptoms of each type in a comprehensive way, as well as providing advice and helpful information.
What is mental wellbeing?
Mental health and mental wellbeing are intrinsically linked, and the two phrases are often used interchangeably. Some consider mental wellbeing to be more a positive state of mind – describing it as ‘feeling good psychologically’, ‘feeling comfortable with yourself’, and ‘being in a good place’. Others emphasise the importance of an awareness of trigger points that might affect your mental health and the strategies you can put in place to help. Both are correct: if you are looking after your mental wellbeing, it should help you feel good psychologically.
What are the risks and what can you do?
It is important to be aware of your mental health state. Poor mental health and associated disorders can impact your life in many ways – they can affect your social life, your work, your relationships, your overall quality of life. But it can be a vicious cycle, as those factors can also be the cause of poor mental health. This is why it is important to be aware of triggers that might affect your mental health state and put strategies in place that can help.
If you are concerned about your mental health, one way that might help is to work on improving your mental wellbeing. To do that, you could consider the following questions:
- Do you have a good diet? – Eating a healthy balanced diet can help you feel at your best and you might also discover a passion for cooking! Check out the NHS website for more information and tips on how to improve your diet.
- Do you get enough sleep? Do you have a good sleep routine? – Lack of sleep can negatively affect your mood and if you don’t recognise your sleep issues early you could damage your long-term mental health. Visit Mind to learn how to handle sleep problems.
- Is there a lot of stress or anxiety in your life? Do you know the causes? – Identifying where most of the stress or anxiety is coming from is an important part of managing or reducing stress and anxiety.
- Are you aware of any triggers that might set off low moods or bad days? – Noting down any triggers that lower your mood or cause you stress can help you formulate a plan to avoid them in the future. Try it for a few days and see if you notice the difference.
- Do you give enough time to yourself? – Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be seen as selfish, in fact it’s a great practice to help prevent certain mental health issues. You could start by learning a new skill, going for a walk or reading.
- Do you exercise at all? – Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that can improve your mood. Even a short walk every day can make a difference.
- Do you ensure you spend time with your loved ones? – Connecting with loved ones can help build a strong sense of belonging and can help provide emotional support
Adjusting these areas may have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. Though please don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t have the effect you want – every person is unique, and what helps one person might not help another. It can also take time, so be patient. People often get to a point where focusing on improving their mental wellbeing using methods such as those above isn’t enough, and they find it more beneficial to their mental health to use other methods such as medication or therapy/counselling.
But the good news is that there is much more acceptance and understanding around mental health now, and it is easier to access different treatments and advice. Remember, it’s important to find what works for you.
Mental Health Foundation: Your Mental Health – a great collection of different types of content designed to provide information about mental health and how to look after it.
Click here to view our full offering of free resources that might help, such as a stress test, tips for restful sleep and an activity tracker and planner. Keep a look out for them – they’ll be coming soon. If you would like more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org