“Factors contributing to mental health”

From wild apes to socialized humans we have evolved, and so has our way of living. From physical tasks of hunting down prey in the jungle we have evolved to mental tasks of hunting down ideas in our mind. Overtime, the world has witnessed increased responsibility and reliance on our muscleless brains than on our muscular biceps and triceps. We need to make numerous choices every day, relate to many people as well as handle modest to harshest stress on a regular basis: all driven by the neural power of our brains. The world today is in great need of nurturing for that three-pound organ as much as we nurture for our physical body to get into just the right shape. Thus, mental health is of great importance.

 Mental health is the emotional, social and psychological well-being of a person. We need it to feel emotionally, act rationally and think reasonably. It leads to mental wellbeing. Presence of positive emotions and moods like contentment and happiness, the absence of negative emotions like depression and anxiety, satisfaction with life, fulfillment and productive functioning are some great indicators of mental wellbeing. Basically, mental wellbeing is all about judging life positively and feeling good. However, achieving mental wellbeing is not an easy task. It is easily affected by many structural, community and individual and biological factors.

Structurally, the environment we live in amounts to the stress we can take in. Living in a calm and peaceful one enables us to endure more stress. Similarly, having a good source of earning as well as good education reduces the burden of securing food. Freedom from violence and discrimination keeps us happy and away from any mental abnormalities as well. Similarly, on a communal level, our sense of belonging to the community, the support we receive from society as well as our social participation in the society contribute to a great deal of our mental well-being. At the individual level, the way we manage our thoughts, the ability to cope up stress and our level of social and communication skills contribute to our mental wellbeing as well. These factors are under our control, and thus, we can manipulate them accordingly for our benefit.

However, there are some biological and experiential factors, completely out of our control, which too contribute to our mental health. The genes that we inherit from our ancestors can make us prone to increased risk of depression and other mental abnormalities, and so, a family history of mental diseases increases chances of the diseases recurring in future generations. The chemistry of our brain, differing from person to person, responds to circumstances differently for different people. Some people’s brain allow soaking up stress easily while some just can’t because their brain are made up so. Other than biological, certain life experiences also contribute to the mental health. Throbbing past traumas and episodes of abuse can have a chronic impact on our mind which can lead to severe mental diseases or abnormalities. 

It is necessary to use the factors contributing to mental health for our benefit. However, if things go south, the following are some ways to early identify mental health problems:

– 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.

That being said, it is also important to counter some of the myths underlying in our society about the mental health disorders. It is a myth that mental health disorders occur to some people only, while the fact is that the entire population, in one way or the other are vulnerable to it. Similarly, children aren’t free of mental health disorders as well. About half of all mental diseases show symptoms before the age of 14. Similarly, the mental disease patients are thought to be violent and unpredictable which is completely absurd. According to a study, only about a three to five percent of patients show violent activities. Ironically, the patients are ten times more likely to be victims of violence. Some people believe that once diagnosed with a mental disorder, there is no way out. It is not the case, however. Many people recover completely after regular medications, therapies and enough emotional support. It gives rise to another myth that only pills alone could help recover a patient. However, the treatment differs from person to person needing different medication and therapies or both. 

Mental health is very important and must be given attention to. This brings us to some preventive ways to keep our mind in the best shape and prevent any potential threats to our mental well-being. Following these measures, we can be positive, happy and ultimately have mental well-being.

— Abhishek, Kathmandu

* This is a submitted post *

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