postgraduate mental health nursing courses

Last Updated on December 24, 2022

Are you an international student? Are you interested in learning more about Mental Health Nursing Courses? Do you get overwhelmed by the amount of conflicting information you see online? If so, you need not search further because you will find the answer to that question in the article below.

To get more information on Mental Health,The Health of Our Minds: Mental Illnesses vs. Mental Disability,What is your Mental Wellbeing Score, you will also find up-to-date, related articles on Collegelearners.

Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health.

However, this link also works in the other direction. Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions.

Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.

Although the term mental health is in common use, many conditions that doctors recognize as psychological disorders have physical roots.

In this article, we explain what people mean by mental health and mental illness. We also describe the most common types of mental disorders, including their early signs and how to treat them.

What is mental health?

a man crying at a support group because of his mental health issues
Mental health disorders are one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source:

“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.”

The WHO stress that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness.

They also emphasize that preserving and restoring mental health is crucial on an individual basis, as well as throughout different communities and societies the world over.

In the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimate that almost 1 in 5 adults experience mental health problems each year.

In 2017, an estimated 11.2 million adultsTrusted Source in the U.S., or about 4.5% of adults, had a severe psychological condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Risk factors for mental health conditions

Everyone has some risk of developing a mental health disorder, no matter their age, sex, income, or ethnicity.

In the U.S. and much of the developed world, mental disorders are one of the leading causesTrusted Source of disability.

Social and financial circumstances, biological factors, and lifestyle choices can all shape a person’s mental health.

A large proportion of people with a mental health disorder have more than one condition at a time.

It is important to note that good mental health depends on a delicate balance of factors and that several elements of life and the world at large can work together to contribute to disorders.

The following factors may contribute to mental health disruptions.

Continuous social and economic pressure

Having limited financial means or belonging to a marginalized or persecuted ethnic group can increase the risk of mental health disorders.

A 2015 studyTrusted Source of 903 families in Iran identified several socioeconomic causes of mental health conditions, including poverty and living on the outskirts of a large city.

The researchers also explained the difference in the availability and quality of mental health treatment for certain groups in terms of modifiable factors, which can change over time, and nonmodifiable factors, which are permanent.

Modifiable factors for mental health disorders include:

  • socioeconomic conditions, such whether work is available in the local area
  • occupation
  • a person’s level of social involvement
  • education
  • housing quality

Nonmodifiable factors include:

  • gender
  • age
  • ethnicity

The study lists gender as both a modifiable and nonmodifiable factor. The researchers found that being female increased the risk of low mental health status by 3.96 times.

People with a “weak economic status” also scored highest for mental health conditions in this study.

Biological factors

The NIMH suggest that genetic family history can increase the likelihoodTrusted Source of mental health conditions, as certain genes and gene variants put a person at higher risk.

However, many other factors contribute to the development of these disorders.

Having a gene with links to a mental health disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia, does not guarantee that a condition will develop. Likewise, people without related genes or a family history of mental illness can still have mental health issues.

Mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety may develop due to underlying, life-changing physical health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, and chronic pain.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

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Common mental health disorders

The most common types of mental illness are as follows:

  • anxiety disorders
  • mood disorders
  • schizophrenia disorders

Anxiety disorders

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness.

People with these conditions have severe fear or anxiety, which relates to certain objects or situations. Most people with an anxiety disorder will try to avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

The American Psychiatric Association define GAD as disproportionate worry that disrupts everyday living.

People might also experience physical symptoms, including

  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • tense muscles
  • interrupted sleep

A bout of anxiety symptoms does not necessarily need a specific trigger in people with GAD.

They may experience excessive anxiety on encountering everyday situations that do not present a direct danger, such as chores or keeping appointments. A person with GAD may sometimes feel anxiety with no trigger at all.

Panic disorders

People with a panic disorder experience regular panic attacks, which involve sudden, overwhelming terror or a sense of imminent disaster and death.

Phobias

There are different types of phobia:

  • Simple phobias: These might involve a disproportionate fear of specific objects, scenarios, or animals. A fear of spiders is a common example.
  • Social phobia: Sometimes known as social anxiety, this is a fear of being subject to the judgment of others. People with social phobia often restrict their exposure to social environments
  • Agoraphobia: This term refers to a fear of situations in which getting away may be difficult, such as being in an elevator or moving train. Many people misunderstand this phobia as a fear of being outside. 

Phobias are deeply personal, and doctors do not know every type. There could be thousands of phobias, and what might seem unusual to one person may be a severe problem that dominates daily life for another.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD have obsessions and compulsions. In other words, they experience constant, stressful thoughts and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a deeply stressful or traumatic event.

During this type of event, the person thinks that their life or other people’s lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or that they have no control over what is happening.

These sensations of trauma and fear may then contribute to PTSD.

Mood disorders

People may also refer to mood disorders as affective disorders or depressive disorders.

People with these conditions have significant changes in mood, generally involving either mania, which is a period of high energy and elation, or depression. Examples of mood disorders include:

  • Major depression: An individual with major depression experiences a constant low mood and loses interest in activities and events that they previously enjoyed. They can feel prolonged periods of sadness or extreme sadness.
  • Bipolar disorder: A person with bipolar disorder experiences unusual changesTrusted Source in their mood, energy levels, levels of activity, and ability to continue with daily life. Periods of high mood are known as manic phases, while depressive phases bring on low mood. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Reduced daylight triggers during the fall, winter, and early spring months trigger this type of major depressionTrusted Source. It is most common in countries far from the equator.

Schizophrenia disorders

Mental health authorities are still trying to determine whether schizophrenia is a single disorder or a group of related illnesses. It is a highly complex condition.

Signs of schizophrenia typically develop between the ages of 16 and 30 yearsTrusted Source, according to the NIMH. The individual will have thoughts that appear fragmented, and they may also find it hard to process information.

Schizophrenia has negative and positive symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, thought disorders, and hallucinations. Negative symptoms include withdrawal, lack of motivation, and a flat or inappropriate mood.

Early signs

There is no physical test or scan that reliably indicates whether a person has developed a mental illness. However, people should look out for the following as possible signs of a mental health disorder:

  • withdrawing from friends, family, and colleagues
  • avoiding activities that they would normally enjoy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • feeling hopeless
  • having consistently low energy
  • using mood-altering substances, including alcohol and nicotine, more frequently
  • displaying negative emotions
  • being confused
  • being unable to complete daily tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal
  • having persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly
  • thinking of causing physical harm to themselves or others
  • hearing voices
  • experiencing delusions

Treatment

There are various methods for managing mental health problems. Treatment is highly individual, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Some strategies or treatments are more successful in combination with others. A person living with a chronic mental disorder may choose different options at various stages in their life.

The individual needs to work closely with a doctor who can help them identify their needs and provide them with suitable treatment.

Treatments can include:

Psychotherapy, or talking therapies

This type of treatment takes a psychological approach to treating mental illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy are examples.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and some primary care physicians carry out this type of treatment.

It can help people understand the root of their mental illness and start to work on more healthful thought patterns that support everyday living and reduce the risk of isolation and self-harm.

Medication

Some people take prescribed medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytic drugs.

Although these cannot cure mental disorders, some medications can improve symptoms and help a person resume social interaction and a normal routine while they work on their mental health.

Some of these medications work by boosting the body’s absorption of feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin, from the brain. Other drugs either boost the overall levels of these chemicals or prevent their degradation or destruction.

Self-help

A person coping with mental health difficulties will usually need to make changes to their lifestyle to facilitate wellness.

Such changes might include reducing alcohol intake, sleeping more, and eating a balanced, nutritious diet. People may need to take time away from work or resolve issues with personal relationships that may be causing damage to their mental health.

People with conditions such as an anxiety or depressive disorder may benefit from relaxation techniques, which include deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness.

Having a support network, whether via self-help groups or close friends and family, can also be essential to recovery from mental illness.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects

The Health of Our Minds: Mental Illnesses vs. Mental Disability

The WHO refers to mental health as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease”. The Cent for Disease Control defines mental illnesses as “disorders generally characterized by dysregulation of mood, thought, and/or behavior” that affect individuals to the extent that social integration becomes problematic. The TheFreeDictionary.com as you would expect is more elaborate in its definition of mental illnesses: “any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual’s normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma.” Mental illnesses are also referred to as emotional illnesses, mental diseases or mental disorders.

Mental illnesses include cerebral palsy, depression, schizophrenia, and drug and substance abuse.  Of these mental disorders, mood disorders which include depression (in which the individual commonly reports feeling, for a time period of two weeks or more, sad or blue, uninterested in things previously of interest to them, psychomotor retardation or agitation, and increased or decreased appetite since the depressive episode ensued) are among the most pervasive. Depression is a common mental disorder with an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffering from the condition globally.
Mental health is a positive concept and refers to resilience and good functioning of the body and mind, emphasizing the flourish, state of happiness and the aspect of getting the most out of life. Ironically, mental illness and mental wellbeing can be experienced by a single individual at the same time while on the contrary some people may actually not show signs of mental illnesses but will still experience poor mental health. These traits are exhibited in poor social relationships, poor outputs at work and underachievement of desired goals.
While mental or intellectual disability is almost always congenital and permanent, and incurable in most scenarios, mental illnesses are mostly acquired and can be prevented if care is sought at the earliest possible opportunity. Depression that present with manic episodes may be mistaken with intellectual disability. These are however two different conditions.
According to the WHO (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs369/en/), depression becomes a serious health condition especially when it is long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity. Affected persons suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. Extreme depression can lead to suicide. Available data indicates that deaths from suicide number an estimated 1 million every year globally.
The good news is that, if diagnosed early, depression is easily managed and treated. The same can’t be said for mental or intellectual disability.

THE SCALE OF THE BURDEN

The WHO estimates that mental illness accounts for up to 14% of the global burden of disease with approximately 450 million people worldwide having some kind of a mental disorder. In Africa, 5% of the population suffers from mental illnesses and it is expected to rise to 15% by the year 2030. It is also estimated that at any given time, 10% of adults are experiencing a current mental disorder; and that 25% will develop one at some point during their lifetime [1]. In Kenya, statistics indicate that one in four patients presenting to a primary health facility suffers from a mental illness [2, 3]. Reports suggest that poor mental health is increasingly becoming a big issue in urban areas and especially in the informal settlements, majorly due to the high incidences of drug abuse and poverty [4, 5].

HOW STIGMA INTERFERES WITH HEALTH SEEKING FOR THE MENTALLY ILL

Stigma associated with about mental illnesses greatly affects the uptake of available healthcare services. For patients to avoid the label of mental illness and the harm it brings, they decide not to seek or fully participate in care. Stigma diminishes the self-esteem and robs the affected of social opportunities [6]. This means that those suspected to be mentally sick stand a higher risk of being violated and denied their human rights.
According to the Kenya National Commission on Human rights report “silenced minds: The systemic neglect of the Mental health System in Kenya”, as a result of stigma and discrimination against mental illnesses and mental disorder in the country, the policies and practices of the Government of Kenya have been inadequate and resulted in mental health system that is woefully under-resourced and unable to offer quality inpatient and outpatient care to the majority of Kenyans who need it.  There is need for the development of anti-stigma programs that should promote care-seeking and participation among mentally ill patients in Kenya.

What is your Mental Wellbeing Score?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

Early Warning Signs

Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  • 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
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • 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 kids or getting to work or school

Mental Health and Wellness

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities

Ways to maintain positive mental health include:

  • Getting professional help if you need it
  • Connecting with others
  • Staying positive
  • Getting physically active
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills

How to look after your mental health

1. Talk about your feelings

Talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.

2. Keep active

Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy, and is also a significant benefit towards improving your mental health.

3. Eat well

Your brain needs a mix of nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.

4. Drink sensibly

We often drink alcohol to change our mood. Some people drink to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.

When the drink wears off, you feel worse because of the way the alcohol has affected your brain and the rest of your body. Drinking is not a good way to manage difficult feelings.

5. Keep in touch

There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face to face, but that’s not always possible. You can also give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open: it’s good for you!

6. Ask for help

None of us are superhuman. We all sometimes get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan.

If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. Your family or friends may be able to offer practical help or a listening ear.

Local services are there to help you.

7. Take a break

A change of scene or a change of pace is good for your mental health.

It could be a five-minute pause from cleaning your kitchen, a half-hour lunch break at work, or a weekend exploring somewhere new. A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you. Give yourself some ‘me time’.

8. Do something you’re good at

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past?

Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity you enjoy probably means you’re good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem

9. Accept who you are

We’re all different. It’s much healthier to accept that you’re unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn.

10. Care for others

‘Friends are really important… We help each other whenever we can, so it’s a two-way street, and supporting them uplifts me.’

Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together.

Why It’s Important to Care for Your Mental Health

Mental health is integral to living a healthy, balanced life. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five American experience mental health issues which translates to more than 40 million adults a year.

Our mental health encompasses our psychological, emotional and social well-being. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each day. Our mental health also contributes to our decision making process, how we cope with stress and how we relate to others in our lives.

Why is emotional health important?

Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving. It plays an important part in the health of your relationships, and allows you to adapt to changes in your life and cope with adversity.

How can you improve your emotional health day-to-day?

There are steps you can take to improve your mental health everyday. Small things like exercising, eating a balanced and healthy meals, opening up to other people in your life, taking a break when you need to, remembering something you are grateful for and getting a good night’s sleep, can be helpful in boosting your emotional health.

When is a good time to reach out for help?

Issues related to mental health can impact different people in different ways. If you start to see changes in your overall happiness and relationships, there are always ways get the support you want. Here are some ways you can get help:

  • Connect with other individuals, friends and family — Reaching out and opening up to other people in your life can help provide emotional support.
  • Learn more about mental health — There are many resources you can turn to for learning more about emotional health. Some examples include Psychology Today, National Institute of Mental Health, and Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Take a mental health assessment — An assessment can help determine if stress, anxiety or depression may be having an impact on your life. Doctor On Demand offers a free and private online mental health assessment that you can take at any time.
  • Talk to a professional — If you start to feel like your emotional health is starting to impact you, it may be time to reach out for extra support. With Doctor On Demand, you can see a psychologist or psychiatrist and find the personalized support you want.

3 Reasons Why Mental Health Is So Important

Mental health matters. Taking care of our mental health aids in our resilience and recovery from anything that happens.

Anyone can have a bad day, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad life. How we respond to it and take care of our mental health are what’s important.

Mental health is important at every stage of our lives. It encompasses our overall wellbeing and affects our lives in many ways.

Why Is Mental Health Important?

Research shows that one in five adults in America – 43.8 million people – experience mental illness, which is 18.5% of our total population.[1] This means that mental health issues frequent our population and affect everything we do.

According to HealthyPeople.gov, “neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States.”[2] Left untreated, mental illness creates widespread disability. It stops us from showing up to each day, stifles our abilities, and slows our pace.

Unfortunately, suicide rates rise when mental health is neglected. Mental health is important because it affects everything. It affects our ability to cope, adapt, and solve problems. It also affects our ability to be happy, productive, and well adjusted.

Mental health is a topic that gets stigmatized so often in our society. If someone is having a mental health issue, they are less likely to get help because of that stigma and shame.

But there’s nothing to be ashamed of. The wirings of your brain are not your fault. Yet, we act like it is our fault and discount its importance.

Mental illness also gets misunderstood by those who have never experienced it. It becomes up to us to advocate for our needs and educate others about our issues.

We become experts of “lived experience.”

There is a spectrum of how we experience things. We may sometimes lose control but regain it overall. Or we may experience the extremes of high and low emotions and not be able to cope. We may fall somewhere in between.

Things unravel when left untreated. But that doesn’t mean that it becomes too late. Anything’s possible. When we remember that, we give ourselves a fighting chance again.

There are three reasons why mental health is so important.

1. Mental Health Affects Physical Health

If someone had cancer, we would not blame them for this disease in their bodies. So why do we place stigma and blame on mental health issues in the brain?

Mental illness matters just as much as any disease, and it can take one’s life as easily as any other.

Depression, for example, can lead to suicidal ideations and if untreated, suicidal attempts. We are not balanced people if we only focus on physical health.

The mind and the body are connected. Many mental ailments cause stress, which lowers the immune system. This means more frequent sickness and inability to cope.

Stress and anxiety can take a toll on our physical health. According to WebMD, “worry causes the body to release stress hormones that speed up your heart rate and breathing, raise your blood sugar, and send more blood to your arms and legs. Over time, this can affect your heart, blood vessels, muscles, and other systems.”[3]

When stress infiltrates our body, we start to shut down. How we cope with stress is everything. Untreated mental health issues can lead to further falling apart.

Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms, affecting their overall health and stability. When they don’t treat themselves right, it becomes a cycle of destructive behavior. This affects their physical wellbeing and can continue to snowball.

One’s stress affects one’s physical wellbeing and ability to take care of themselves, and this may cause destructive patterns.

When we reach this point, we sometimes only then learn that mental health is important. We must not ignore it, or other areas of our lives may suffer.

2. End Stigma and Shame to Lead Better Lives

It’s important to talk about mental health, so others can also come forward about it

Psych Central discusses how when we feel ashamed of ourselves, it is because we perceive we are broken or not normal. It affects our ability to cope when we think of ourselves so lowly.[4]

Part of the process of healing is turning those feelings around. Our imperfections do not mean a lack of worth. When we realize that, we can also help others turn these feelings around and accept themselves.

Stigma begets shame. Shame begets destructive behaviors. Destructive behaviors beget a deterioration of the self.

Stigma spreads when we do not talk about mental health and its importance.

When it comes down to it, those who are mentally ill must need treatment. But without awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding their condition, they won’t feel comfortable reaching out to somebody for help. This enforces stigma and encourages more struggle and shame.

When we don’t get to say something, we give it more power.

In “Name It to Tame It”, a common exercise about emotions, we take the power of emotion away by naming it. Without talking about our emotions, they become more powerful and get more hold over us and others’ lives.

When we talk to each other, the problem becomes smaller with less hold over our lives. We can free each other by not being ashamed of mental health ourselves.

When we become authentic, we reclaim power over our lives. By denying the existence and importance of mental health, we deny ourselves. We lose our ability to solve problems and find solutions in our daily lives.

Without shame though however, we can say “I am not my mental illness. I am more than it. I am not afraid to talk about it because it is not my fault.”

When we do this, we empower ourselves and the world. We learn to listen to our triggers and warning signs so that we do not spiral, and we show greater compassion towards others experiencing it. This makes a more connected world overall.

“One day you will tell your story of how you’ve overcome what you went through, and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide.” -Unknown

When we help ourselves, we also help others. We can pay attention to the world and make it a kinder, more loving place. We can determine what problems need to be solved by acknowledging our own, and we can share our stories in making that happen. We take away the shame.

3. Mental Health Affects Everything

Our mental health affects how we cope with life. Lack of treatment leads to hopelessness and sadness, worthlessness, feeling guilty, anxiety and worry, fear, and loss of control.

Our relationships may suffer. Our performance in any situation such as school or work may decline. Withdrawal and isolation may happen.

We may also lose interest in things we once enjoyed. Task completion and time management may fall apart. It may also become difficult for us to concentrate, or one may have rumination and focus on cleaning or organizing.

Our relationship with food may change. We may have ups and downs, and racing thoughts can happen more often.

Life may become overwhelming. If we are having severe mental health issues, we may start to lose touch with reality and even hear voices.

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Self-harm may happen. Destructive patterns such as alcohol and drug use may strike, and suicidal ideations may be the final result. Overall, things will fall apart if we don’t take mental health seriously.

If you experience any of these issues, it’s time to reach out for help.

Mental health issues are important. It’s important to learn and care about them because if we don’t, all the aforementioned things could happen. We can’t function if we’re not doing well.

But when we turn this around and have good mental health, many good things can happen:

  • We learn to cope again.
  • We become healthy in all aspects.
  • Our relationships no longer suffer.
  • We find meaning in our day to day lives.
  • We become more involved in our community.
  • We are more productive at school or at work.
  • We can be the person we are meant to be.

When we feel better, we do better.

Mental health affects everything. It affects our nature and how we interact with the world and ourselves.

Without good mental health, we are susceptible to not knowing our full worth and struggling with things that are beyond our control. When we ignore mental health, we ignore ourselves.

We must value our health and wellness as much as we value anything, if not more. We must learn that we are good enough – that we are worthy of compassion and that others are too.

This leads us to have higher standards. It helps us feel sad if we want to feel sad, accepting our state of mind. And it also helps us do something about it.

We don’t have to wait to feel better – we can feel better today simply by acknowledging our struggles as real and worth paying compassionate attention towards.

We don’t need to solve every problem, but we can ask for help if things get too much. Then and only then do we gain some sense of control again over our lives.

5 steps to mental wellbeing

1. Connect with other people

Good relationships are important for your mental wellbeing. They can:

  • help you to build a sense of belonging and self-worth
  • give you an opportunity to share positive experiences
  • provide emotional support and allow you to support others

There are lots of things you could try to help build stronger and closer relationships:

Do

  • if possible, take time each day to be with your family, for example, try arranging a fixed time to eat dinner together
  • arrange a day out with friends you have not seen for a while
  • try switching off the TV to talk or play a game with your children, friends or family
  • have lunch with a colleague
  • visit a friend or family member who needs support or company
  • volunteer at a local school, hospital or community group. 
  • make the most of technology to stay in touch with friends and family. Video-chat apps like Skype and FaceTime are useful, especially if you live far apart
  • search and download online community apps on the NHS apps library

Don’t

  • do not rely on technology or social media alone to build relationships. It’s easy to get into the habit of only ever texting, messaging or emailing people

2. Be physically active

Being active is not only great for your physical health and fitness. Evidence also shows it can also improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • raising your self-esteem
  • helping you to set goals or challenges and achieve them
  • causing chemical changes in your brain which can help to positively change your mood

Do

  • find free activities to help you get fit
  • if you have a disability or long-term health condition, find out about getting active with a disability
  • start running with our couch to 5k podcasts
  • find out how to start swimming, cycling or dancing
  • find out about getting started with exercise

Don’t

  • do not feel that you have to spend hours in a gym. It’s best to find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your life

3. Learn new skills

Research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • boosting self-confidence and raising self-esteem
  • helping you to build a sense of purpose
  • helping you to connect with others

Even if you feel like you do not have enough time, or you may not need to learn new things, there are lots of different ways to bring learning into your life.

Some of the things you could try include:

Do

  • try learning to cook something new. Find out about healthy eating and cooking tips
  • try taking on a new responsibility at work, such as mentoring a junior staff member or improving your presentation skills
  • work on a DIY project, such as fixing a broken bike, garden gate or something bigger. There are lots of free video tutorials online
  • consider signing up for a course at a local college. You could try learning a new language or a practical skill such as plumbing
  • try new hobbies that challenge you, such as writing a blog, taking up a new sport or learning to paint

Don’t

  • do not feel you have to learn new qualifications or sit exams if this does not interest you. It’s best to find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your life

4. Give to others

Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness can help improve your mental wellbeing by:

  • creating positive feelings and a sense of reward
  • giving you a feeling of purpose and self-worth
  • helping you connect with other people

It could be small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones like volunteering in your local community.

Some examples of the things you could try include:

  • saying thank you to someone for something they have done for you
  • asking friends, family or colleagues how they are and really listening to their answer
  • spending time with friends or relatives who need support or company
  • offering to help someone you know with DIY or a work project
  • volunteering in your community, such as helping at a school, hospital or care home

5. Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

Paying more attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.

Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.

Mental health problems – an introduction

Mental health problems can have a wide range of causes. It’s likely that for many people there is a complicated combination of factors – although different people may be more deeply affected by certain things than others.

For example, the following factors could potentially result in a period of poor mental health:

  • childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
  • social isolation or loneliness
  • experiencing discrimination and stigma
  • social disadvantage, poverty or debt
  • bereavement (losing someone close to you)
  • severe or long-term stress
  • having a long-term physical health condition
  • unemployment or losing your job
  • homelessness or poor housing
  • being a long-term carer for someone
  • drug and alcohol misuse
  • domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult
  • significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious incident in which you feared for your life, or being the victim of a violent crime
  • physical causes – for example, a head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behaviour and mood. (It’s important to rule out potential physical causes before seeking further treatment for a mental health problem).

Although lifestyle factors including work, diet, drugs and lack of sleep can all affect your mental health, if you experience a mental health problem there are usually other factors as well.

“My depression seems to flare up during times when I am stressed and isolated from other people.”

Do mental health problems run in families?

Research suggests that some mental health problems may run in families. For example, if you have a parent with schizophrenia, you are more likely to develop schizophrenia yourself. But no one knows if this is because of our genes or because of other factors, such as the environment we grow up in, or the ways of thinking, coping and behaving that we may learn from our parents.

Although the development of some mental health problems may be influenced by our genes, researchers haven’t found any specific genes that definitely cause mental health problems.

And many people who experience a mental health problem don’t have any parents, children or other relatives with the same condition.

Is brain chemistry a factor?

The human brain is extremely complicated. Some research suggests that mental health problems may be linked to a variation in certain brain chemicals (such as serotonin and dopamine), but no one really understands how or why. Arguments that someone’s brain chemistry is the cause of mental health problems are very weak.

But even though there’s no strong evidence to say that any mental health problems are caused by a chemical imbalance in our brains, you might find some people still use brain chemistry to explain them.

Reasons for this might include:

  • Some psychiatric medications work by acting on chemicals in the brain, and there’s lots of evidence to show that medication can be effective in treating some symptoms of mental health problems (although drugs don’t work the same way for everyone).
  • Mental health problems can feel very personal and be hard to understand, so the idea that there could be a distinct physical cause for difficult thoughts, feelings and behaviours might make it feel easier to talk openly about your experiences and ask for help.

What causes mental illness?

Most mental illnesses don’t have a single cause. Instead they have a variety of causes, called risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop a mental illness. Sometimes, the mental illness develops gradually. Other times, it doesn’t appear until a stressful event triggers it.

There are many risk factors and triggers, but here are a few examples:

  • Genetics. Mental illness often runs in the family.
  • Environment. Living in a stressful environment can make you more likely to develop a mental illness. Things like living in poverty or having an abusive family put a lot of stress on your brain and often trigger mental illness.
  • Childhood trauma. Even if you’re no longer in a stressful environment, things that happened to you as a child can have an impact later in life.
  • Stressful events: like losing a loved one, or being in a car accident.
  • Negative thoughts. Constantly putting yourself down or expecting the worst can get you stuck in a cycle of depression or anxiety.
  • Unhealthy habits: like not getting enough sleep, or not eating.
  • Drugs and alcohol: Abusing drugs and alcohol can trigger a mental illness. It can also make it harder to recover from mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry. Mental illness involves an imbalance of natural chemicals in your brain and your body.

These risk factors don’t just affect who will develop a mental illness in the first place. They also affect how severe their symptoms will be, and when they will experience those symptoms.

10 things you might not know about mental health | AXA

Types of mental health issues and illnesses

Mental illness is a general term for a group of illnesses that may include symptoms that can affect a person’s thinking, perceptions, mood or behaviour. Mental illness can make it difficult for someone to cope with work, relationships and other demands. The relationship between stress and mental illness is complex, but it is known that stress can worsen an episode of mental illness. Most people can manage their mental illness with medication, counselling or both.This page lists some of the more common mental health issues and mental illnesses.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders is a group of mental health disorders that includes generalised anxiety disorders, social phobias, specific phobias (for example, agoraphobia and claustrophobia), panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder. Untreated, anxiety disorders can lead to significant impairment on people’s daily lives.

Behavioural and emotional disorders in children

Common behaviour disorders in children include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Treatment for these mental health disorders can include therapy, education and medication.

Bipolar affective disorder

Bipolar affective disorder is a type of mood disorder, previously referred to as ‘manic depression’. A person with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of mania (elation) and depression. The person may or may not experience psychotic symptoms. The exact cause is unknown, but a genetic predisposition has been clearly established. Environmental stressors can also trigger episodes of this mental illness.

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterised by lowering of mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, and reduced energy. It is not just feeling sad. There are different types and symptoms of depression. There are varying levels of severity and symptoms related to depression. Symptoms of depression can lead to increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviours.

Dissociation and dissociative disorders

Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. Dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder and dissociative identity disorder.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia nervosa and other binge eating disorders. Eating disorders affect females and males and can have serious psychological and physical consequences.

Obsessive compulsive disorder

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder. Obsessions are recurrent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted. Compulsions are time-consuming and distressing repetitive rituals. Ttreatments include cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), and medications

Paranoia

Paranoia is the irrational and persistent feeling that people are ‘out to get you’. Paranoia may be a symptom of conditions including paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder and schizophrenia. Treatment for paranoiainclude medications and psychological support.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop as a response to people who have experienced any traumatic event. This can be a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war-related events or torture, or natural disasters such as bushfires or floods.

Psychosis

People affected by psychosis can experience delusions, hallucinations and confused thinking.. Psychosis can occur in a number of mental illnesses, including drug-induced psychosis, schizophrenia and mood disorders. Medication and psychological support can relieve, or even eliminate, psychotic symptoms.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex psychotic disorder characterised by disruptions to thinking and emotions, and a distorted perception of reality. Symptoms of schizophrenia vary widely but may include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, social withdrawal, lack of motivation and impaired thinking and memory. People with schizophrenia have a high risk of suicide. Schizophrenia is not a split personality.

10 top tips for good mental health

An important part of keeping fit and healthy is to take care of your own mental health. There are plenty of things you can do to help make sure you keep yourself mentally healthy.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is really important for our physical and mental health. Sleep helps to regulate the chemicals in our brain that transmit information. These chemicals are important in managing our moods and emotions. If we don’t get enough sleep, we can start to feel depressed or anxious.

The Sleep Foundation provides tips on how to sleep well, and to overcome problems with sleeping.

Eat well

Eating well isn’t just important for our bodies, but it’s also important for our minds. Certain mineral deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, can give us a low mood. Try to eat a balanced diet. If you find you’re a particularly stressed or anxious person, you should try limiting or cutting out caffeine as this can make you feel jittery and anxious.

Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs

Drinking and smoking aren’t things which we always associate with withdrawal symptoms, but they can cause some which impact on your mental health. When you’ve had a few drinks you can feel more depressed and anxious the next day, and it can be harder to concentrate. Excessive drinking for prolonged periods can leave you with a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is important for our brain function and a deficiency can lead to severe memory problems, motor (coordination) problems, confusion and eye problems.  If you smoke, between cigarettes your body and brain go into withdrawal which makes you irritable and anxious.

Other drugs will often leave you in withdrawal and can often cause very low moods and anxiety. More severe effects of drugs include paranoia and delusions. There is some research that suggests drug use is related to developing mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Have a look at our pages on Help to stop smoking and on Alcohol and subtance use for more information.

Get plenty of sunlight

Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a really important vitamin for our bodies and our brains. It helps our brains to release chemicals which improve our mood, like endorphins and serotonin. Try to go out in the sun when you can, but make sure you keep your skin and eyes safe. 30 minutes to two hours a day of sunlight is ideal. During the winter, some people become depressed because they aren’t getting enough sunlight – this is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some people find using a special light-therapy lamp helps to alleviate the symptoms. 

Manage stress

Stress is often unavoidable, but knowing what triggers your stress and knowing how to cope is key in maintaining good mental health. Try to manage your responsibilities and worries by making a list or a schedule of when you can resolve each issue. Often if you break down your worries and stresses and write them down, you realise that they are manageable. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand, and tackle problems face on. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, or are waking up thinking about all of the things that are stressing you out, write them down and reassure yourself that you can deal with them in the morning.

Activity and exercise

Activity and exercise are essential in maintaining good mental health. Being active not only gives you a sense of achievement, but it boosts the chemicals in your brain that help put you in a good mood. Exercising can help eliminate low mood, anxiety, stress and feeling tired and lazy. It is also linked to living a longer life.

You don’t need to run a marathon or play 90 minutes of football; a short walk or some another gentle activity might do the trick.

Take a look at our Exercise and sport section, or go to our Events calendar, for ideas and information on what is going on in your area.

Do something you enjoy

Try to make time for doing the fun things you enjoy. If you like going for a walk, painting or a specific TV show, try to set aside time to enjoy yourself. If we don’t spend any time doing things we enjoy, we can become irritable and unhappy.

Whether you need help to get out and about or not take a look at our Things To Do section, or go to our Events calendar, for ideas and information on what is going on in your area.

Connect with others and be sociable

Make an effort to maintain good relationships and talk to people whenever you get the chance. Having friends is important not just for your self-esteem, but also for providing support when you’re not feeling too great. Research has found that talking to others for just ten minutes can improve memory and test scores!

Whether or not you find going out and meeting people difficult you can have a look at our Social Activities pages or our Events calendar for inspiration.

Do things for others

Helping others isn’t just good for the people you’re helping; it’s good for you too. Helping someone can help with your self-esteem and make you feel good about your place in the world. Feeling as though you’re part of a community is a really important part of your mental health. You could try volunteering for a local charity, or just being neighbourly.

Ask for help

One of the most important ways to keep yourself mentally healthy is to recognise when you’re not feeling good, and to know when to ask for help. There’s no shame in asking someone for support if you’re feeling low or stressed. Everyone goes through patches where they don’t feel as good as they should. You can try speaking to your friends or family, or if you think your mental health is getting on top of you then you can speak to your GP.  

1. Value yourself:

Treat yourself with kindness and respect, and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your hobbies and favorite projects, or broaden your horizons. Do a daily crossword puzzle, plant a garden, take dance lessons, learn to play an instrument or become fluent in another language.

2. Take care of your body:

Taking care of yourself physically can improve your mental health. Be sure to:

  • Eat nutritious meals
  • Avoid smoking and vaping– see Cessation Help
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise, which helps decrease depression and anxiety and improve moods
  • Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to a high rate of depression in college students. 

3. Surround yourself with good people:

People with strong family or social connections are generally healthier than those who lack a support network. Make plans with supportive family members and friends, or seek out activities where you can meet new people, such as a club, class or support group.

4. Give yourself:

Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else. You’ll feel good about doing something tangible to help someone in need — and it’s a great way to meet new people.

5. Learn how to deal with stress:

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. Practice good coping skills: Try One-Minute Stress Strategies, do Tai Chi, exercise, take a nature walk, play with your pet or try journal writing as a stress reducer. Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.

6. Quiet your mind:

Try meditating, Mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy. To get connected, see spiritual resources on Personal Well-being for Students

7. Set realistic goals:

Decide what you want to achieve academically, professionally and personally, and write down the steps you need to realize your goals. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t over-schedule. You’ll enjoy a tremendous sense of accomplishment and self-worth as you progress toward your goal. Wellness Coaching, free to U-M students, can help you develop goals and stay on track. 

8. Break up the monotony:

Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.

9. Avoid alcohol and other drugs:

Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Sometimes people use alcohol and other drugs to “self-medicate” but in reality, alcohol and other drugs only aggravate problems.

10. Get help when you need it:

Seeking help is a sign of strength — not a weakness. And it is important to remember that treatment is effective. People who get appropriate care can recover from mental illness and addiction and lead full, rewarding lives.

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