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What Does Mental Health Mean?

When you hear the term “mental health,” what comes to mind? A person dealing with a mental illness? Living stress-free? While society might have confused us with their definition of mental health, let’s discuss what it really is!

What Is Mental Health?

Contrary to what some may think, mental health is not merely the absence of mental disorders. It has become increasingly popular to use these terms interchangeably. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We all have mental health and will struggle with our mental well-being at some point in our lives, just as we all will struggle with our physical well-being at times. However, we do not all have mental disorders.

Mental health encompasses your emotional, behavioral, and cognitive well-being. In essence, it is your thoughts, feelings, emotion, understanding of situations, and ability to handle problems in a healthy way. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”  

What Is a Mental Disorder?

Whereas, mental disorders or mental illnesses are illnesses that impact the way people feel, think, behavior, or interact with other people. Many different mental illnesses exist and all have differing symptoms and various impacts on a person’s life. These conditions can be long-lasting (chronic) or just occasional. However, they all affect a person’s ability to work with or relate to others and function on a daily basis.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

Maintaining your mental health is integral to living a healthy life. In fact, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Both are necessary to be healthy. Mental health should be a concern for everyone. It affects how we interact with others, problem solve, earn a living, think about situations, and enjoy life.

To be mentally healthy, we need to focus on looking for opportunities for happiness and wellness, not just avoiding negative situations or feelings. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have bad days or feel stressed out at times. That is just a natural part of being human. It is what you do with those days or problems that matters. Being mentally healthy means that you have the ability to look at problems realistically and cope with those resulting emotions in a healthy way.

How Can a Person Maintain Positive Mental Health?

If you know that your mental health is so important, how do you maintain it? Here are a few ways to support being mentally healthy:

  • Get plenty of physical activity or exercise
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Keep a positive outlook on life
  • Help others
  • Get plenty of sunlight
  • Connect with friends and family on a regular basis
  • Do something you are already good at
  • Get enough quality sleep
  • Get professional help if needed
  • Develop coping skills when presented with stressful situations
  • Surround yourself with people who love and care about you
  • Set aside time to take care of yourself

What Are the Early Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems?

Sometimes it can be hard to know if your emotions are just fluctuating due to a particular incident or an indicator of something else. Here are some warning signs that a person might be struggling with a mental health problem:

  • Low to no energy
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and colleagues
  • Avoiding activities that once enjoyed
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling like nothing matters
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Drinking, smoking, or using drugs more frequently
  • Severe mood swings
  • Unusually forgetful, confused, angry, worried, upset, or scared
  • Not being able to get memories or thoughts out of your head
  • Thinking about harming yourself or others
  • Unable to perform daily tasks like getting to work or taking care of your kids

How Does a Person Get Help?

If you think that you or someone you care about might be struggling with a mental health issue, don’t try to hide it. Ask for help.

Talk to your doctor about potentials issues, therapy, and/or medicines that can treat mental disorders. If you are not sure if it’s a true issue or not, still reach out to your doctor. They care about you and want to help. Treatment is individualized and what works for one person might not work for another.

If you know someone is at risk to hurt themselves or another person:

  • Listen to the person without showing judgment or negativity.
  • Call 911 or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Try to remove any medications, weapons, or other harmful objects until professional help arrives.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for help 24 hours a day.

Do You Need to Talk to Someone?

If you are struggling with a mental health issue, even if you don’t think it’s a mental illness, we at AllCare are here to help. We have an entire department of providers devoted only to mental health. You can make an appointment here to meet with one of our providers.