Mental Health and Why We Should Be Concerned

In many parts of the world, mental illness has long been considered a taboo topic, one unworthy of public discussion or acknowledgment. In recent years, however, health care specialists around the globe have begun to shine the spotlight on mental illness and its wide-ranging impact on overall health.

The first thing to ask yourself is, what exactly is mental health? In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.

Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, if not worse. It is important to remember that your mental condition is always in a state of flux and can change with circumstances and as you move through different stages of your life.

In this article, we will see why mental health should concern everyone, how to recognize signs of mental health issues, and what you can do to help someone dealing with these issues.

How do I know if someone has a mental health problem?

Sometimes it will seem obvious when someone is going through a hard time, but there is no simple way of knowing if they have a mental health problem. It’s more important, however, to respond sensitively to someone who seems troubled than to find out whether or not they have a diagnosis.

Although certain symptoms are common with specific mental health problems, no two people behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behavior or mood.

People who are depressed may:

  • have low confidence
  • lose interest in activities they normally enjoy
  • lose their appetite
  • get tired easily
  • be tearful, nervous or irritable. At worst they may feel suicidal.

People experiencing anxiety may:

  • have difficulty concentrating
  • be irritable
  • try to avoid certain situations
  • appear pale and tense
  • be easily startled by everyday sounds.

Some people who are distressed deliberately harm their bodies, usually secretly, using self-harm as a way of dealing with intense emotional pain. They may cut, burn, scald or scratch themselves, injure themselves, pull their hair or swallow poisonous substances.

Some people experiencing severe mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, may have periods when they experience their own or a different reality. They may hear voices, see things no-one else sees, hold unusual beliefs, feel exceptionally self-important or read particular meanings into everyday events.

Talking about mental health

If you are worried about someone it can be difficult to know what to do. When you are aware there is an issue, it is important not to wait. Waiting and hoping they will come to you for help might lose valuable time in getting them support.

Talking to someone is often the first step to take when you know they are going through a hard time. This way you can find out what is troubling them and what you can do to help.

If it is a family member or close friend you are concerned about, they might not want to talk to you. Try not to take this personally: talking to someone you love can be difficult as they might be worried that they are hurting you. It is important to keep being open and honest and telling them that you care. It may also be helpful to give them information on organizations or people they can reach out to.

How can I help someone having a mental health crisis?

People with mental health problems sometimes experience a crisis, such as breaking down in tears, having a panic attack, feeling suicidal, or experiencing their own or a different reality.

There are some general strategies that you can use to help:

  • Listen without making judgments and concentrate on their needs at that moment.
  • Ask them what would help them.
  • Reassure and signpost to practical information or resources.
  • Avoid confrontation.
  • Ask if there is someone they would like you to contact.
  • Encourage them to seek appropriate professional help.
  • If they have hurt themselves, make sure they get the first aid they need.

Seeing, hearing or believing things that no-one else does can be the symptom of a mental health problem. It can be frightening and upsetting. Gently remind the person who you are and why you are there. Don’t reinforce or dismiss their experiences, but acknowledge how the symptoms are making them feel.

There’s still a stigma attached to mental health problems. This means that sufferers feel uncomfortable about them and often don’t get the help they need. A change is required. If you want to be part of that change, reach out. Show you care. You might just save someone’s life. And if you suffer from mental health issues yourself, know that you are not alone. There are people who can help you – let them.

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