We all know how important it is to look after our physical health, right? We eat our vegetables, try to cut out chocolate and do some sort of exercise. But what about our mental health?
While physical health is concerned with physical activity, nutrition and diet, the use of alcohol, drugs and medication, and rest and sleep, your mental health is all about your psychological, emotional and social wellbeing. The state of your mental health will determine your outlook on life, how you handle stress and make choices, how you relate and interact with others, and how you think, feel and act, and just like your physical health, it can be good or bad.
What is good mental health?
Having good mental health is much more than just the absence of a mental health problem, condition or illness. Good mental health is also a positive sense of wellbeing and the ability to live and enjoy life whilst dealing with the challenges and ups and downs we face on a daily basis.
With good mental health, you will be able to deal with stress, work productively, learn, realise your full potential and have the ability to cope with change and uncertainty in a positive way. A person with good mental health will also be able to feel, express and manage both positive and negative emotions, will be able to build and maintain good relationships with others and will be able to make meaningful contributions to their communities, families, friend groups and place of work.
Remember: Good mental health doesn’t mean you don’t have stress; it only means you cope with it better in a positive way.
What is bad mental health?
Although we would like to enjoy endless good mental health, it is not abnormal to experience mental health problems over the course of your life. Many factors can influence the state of our mental health and affect the way you think, your mood, how you feel and your behaviour. These factors include, but are not limited to, biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry, life experiences, such as trauma, grief, abuse or extreme stress, or a family history of mental health problems.
The exact symptoms will depend on what kind of mental health problem you are facing, but according to www.mentalhealth.org, experiencing one of more of the following behaviours can be an early warning sign that your mental health is in decline:
- eating or sleeping too much or too little,
- pulling away from people and usual activities,
- having low or no energy,
- feeling numb or like nothing matters,
- feeling helpless or hopeless,
- smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual,
- feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared,
- yelling or fighting with family and friends,
- experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships,
- having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head,
- hearing voices or believing things that are not true,
- thinking of harming yourself or others,
- inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your children or getting to work or school.
What to do if you have signs and symptoms of a mental health problem?
As we care about you and your mental health, Happy Futures got in touch with an expert! Catherine Mason, the Service and Volunteer Manager of Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale Mind offers the following advice:
Seeking help is often the first step towards getting and staying well, but it can be hard to know how to start or where to turn to. It’s common to feel unsure and to wonder whether you should try to handle things on your own. But it’s always OK to ask for help, even if you’re not sure you are experiencing a specific mental health problem.
You might want to seek help if you are:
- worrying more than usual,
- finding it hard to enjoy your life,
- having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with, which have an impact on your day-to-day life, or
- interested to find more support or treatment.
Who can you turn to?
There are lots of options for support out there, although you might find some are more suitable for you, or more easily available. There’s no wrong order to try things in, and different things work for different people at different times, so find what works for you!
Your doctor (GP)
For many of us, our local GP practice is the first place we go when we’re unwell. Your doctor is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health. They could:
- make a diagnosis,
- offer you support and treatments (such as talking therapies or medication),
- refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, or
- recommend local support options.
A trained therapist
Trained therapists and counsellors provide a range of different therapies through the NHS, for which your doctor could refer you. In some cases, you might be able to contact them directly.
Friends, family, carers and neighbours
Sometimes it can help to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. They could:
- help you to find information,
- discuss your options with you,
- come with you to appointments,
- help out with everyday tasks, and
- give you encouragement and support.
Charity and third sector organisations
There are many national and local charities which offer various support services, such as:
- helplines and listening services,
- information and signposting, and
- other services such as peer support, talking therapies, advocacy, crisis care, employment and housing support.
Peer support brings together people with similar experiences. Your peers can:
- support you and listen to how you are feeling,
- offer empathy and understanding, and
- share experiences, information, suggestions for self-care and support options.
Community support services
If your mental health problems are severe or longer lasting, your doctor can put you in touch with specialist mental health services. These might include community mental health teams (CMHTs), social care services, residential care and support services, and crisis resolution and home treatment teams (CRHTs or ‘crisis teams’).
Some workplaces offer free access to support services such as talking therapies. This is called an Employee Assistance Programme.
What if I’m finding it difficult to seek help?
Seeking help isn’t always easy, especially when you’re not feeling well. It can take time and may not be straightforward. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and that you deserve support. And remember that a lot of what you do to look after yourself will be during your day-to-day life, not just healthcare appointments, so it’s always worth thinking about what helps you feel better in general.
If you feel like you might need some help, we want you to TALK!