First and foremost, mental health is not the same as a mental health issue. We all have mental health. It does not come and go; it’s with us constantly throughout our lifetime.
Mental health is often used interchangeably with the terms emotional health and well-being – and our mental state is certainly a key part of our overall well-being. It refers to the way in which we are aware of our own abilities and how well we cope with the ups and downs of life. It’s a very personal, individual sense of who we are and how we feel.
Good mental health can be maintained with self-care but, if we experience a problem, it will rarely go away on its own. We may require further help, for example, through talking therapies such as psychotherapy and counselling.
Types of Mental Health Issues
According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are two main types of mental health problems: neurotic and psychotic. Some people may also experience a combination of neurosis and psychosis.
Neurotic symptoms can be described as severe versions of ‘normal’ emotions such as stress, sadness, and anxiety. We all feel these emotions every now and then, but when they start impacting our daily life, it may be a sign of a mental health problem.
Mental health issues with neurotic symptoms include:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorders
Mental health issues with psychotic symptoms are less common. Research shows that 2% of the UK population has psychosis. Psychotic symptoms interfere with a persons perception of reality and may include hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that no one else can).
Mental health issues with psychotic symptoms include:
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality disorders
Mental health issues can have a wide range of causes, and often the exact cause is not known. However, certain factors are thought to play a role in triggering problems, including psychological, physical, social and environmental.
A psychological cause is something that affects the mind or emotional state such as a traumatic experience (e.g. loss of a loved one, serious road accident, etc). When something traumatic occurs, it can completely change a person’s perception of the world. This can result in feelings of anger, helplessness, fear and guilt. These may persist long after the event has happened. As a person tries to deal with and contain their negative feelings, unhealthy behaviours can emerge. Examples include self-harm, drug abuse, bulimia and suicidal thoughts.
Physical causes are things that affect the body on a biological level. They include such things as genetics, early development, head injuries, and nutrition.
Social and environmental causes are things that happen around us such as where we live, where we work, and the relationships that we have with family and friends.
Mental Health Support
Mental health support covers a range of things designed to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The most common types of treatments include prescribed medication to control symptoms (they are not a cure) and talking therapies including psychotherapy, counselling, group psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and other forms of mental health counselling.
One way of managing the effects of a mental health problem is talking about it. Whether you are living with a mental health problem, or know somebody else who is, it is important to talk about your experiences and the stigma associated.