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Sunday, October 1, 2023

September is the worldwide awareness of mental health


What do we know about our mental health and our mental illnesses? What is Mental Health?

Mental health is a term used to describe emotional, psychological, and social well-being.1 The quality of a person’s mental health is often measured by how adaptively they can cope with everyday stressors.

Mental health allows people to use their abilities, be productive, make decisions, and play an active role in their communities.

Having poor mental health is often confused with having a mental illness. But mental health actually refers to a person’s state of mental well-being whether or not they have a psychiatric condition.

Mental health refers not only to emotional well-being but also to how people think and behave. There are a number of different factors that have been found to influence mental health.

Maimouna Jatta: The growing number of mentally unstable youths walking the streets of The Gambia is ringing an alarm bell of emergency. It has been estimated that 20% of the Gambian population is suffering from mental health issues, that is 1 in every 5 Gambians is suffering from mental illness.

Mental health is the health of our mind. It refers to our cognitive, behavioural, and emotional wellbeing. It is the normality, maturity, and sanity of being able to handle simple day-to-day responsibilities and being able to live in a state of well-being.

To date, there has not been any biological test to diagnose mental disorders. This makes mental disorders one of the hardest disorders to diagnose and treat. However, a number of models have been set up to explain the abnormality of mental illness. The main models include biological model, behavioural model, psychodynamic model, and cognitive model.

A person’s ability to enjoy life is frequently used as an indicator of mental health and wellness. It is often defined as the degree to which a person enjoys the most important aspects of their life. Some factors that have been found to play an important role in life satisfaction include the absence of feeling ill, good relationships, a sense of belonging, being active in work and leisure, a sense of achievement and pride, positive self-perceptions, a sense of autonomy, and feelings of hope.

Social support is important for positive mental health. Loneliness is linked with both physical and mental health issues including cardiovascular disease, depression, memory problems, drug misuse, alcohol misuse, and altered brain function.

Decreases in social support caused by life changes such as going to college, facing social adversity, changing jobs, or getting divorced can have a negative impact on mental health.

Having rigid expectations can sometimes create added stress. Emotional flexibility may be just as important as cognitive flexibility. Mentally healthy people experience a range of emotions and allow themselves to express these feelings. Some people shut off certain feelings, finding them to be unacceptable., Lack of psychological flexibility has been linked to some types of psychopathologies, while research suggests that increased flexibility is connected to better life balance and improved resilience.

What causes mental illness?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as Early adverse life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse (for example, child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.), Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain, Use of alcohol or drugs, Having feelings of loneliness or isolation


Being treated unfairly due to personal characteristics such as age, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity is linked with increased anxiety and depression

Medical Illness

Illnesses, particularly those that are chronic and force a person to adjust their lifestyle, can create psychological distress (especially depression).

Poor access to health Services

Access to health services is linked to positive long-term health outcomes. However, when people can’t get access to the health care they need, their physical and mental health may suffer as a result

Poor self-esteem

Having low self-esteem often means you don’t believe you’re worthy of being happy or having positive relationships. People with low self-esteem are at higher risk of developing substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Poor social skills

Having poor social skills is linked with loneliness and increased stress levels, as well as worsened physical health.

Impact of mental health in our life

The state of a person’s mental health has a significant impact on their quality of life. Taking care of your mental health allows you to contribute to your community, cope with stress, have quality relationships, and maintain physical health.

Mental health can help you to work toward your full potential in all aspects of your life. Improved mental health is also linked with better physical health. Research has found that positive mental health can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Poor mental health, on the other hand, is linked with issues like increased stress, sleep problems, smoking, and substance use. If your mental health is suffering, you might feel overwhelmed more easily, have trouble maintaining relationships, and experience low self-esteem.

How to stay mentally healthy

Physical Exercise

Physical exercise can reduce stress and even improve the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression. It reduces the body’s levels of stress hormones and elevates levels of endorphins, which promote mood regulation and feelings of well-being.

Your workout doesn’t need to be strenuous either. Try taking a 20-minute walk and you might just notice the effect it has on clearing and relaxing your mind.

Adequate sleep

Not getting enough sleep can worsen mental health and cause mental distress, especially in people with existing mental health conditions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends getting at least seven hours per night. Mental health conditions can make it extra challenging to fulfil your sleep requirements, but there are ways you can improve your sleeping habits.

Try adhering to a consistent sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same times each night), limiting distractions like using your phone before bed, and making sure you get some exercise during the day. Be sure to consult a healthcare provider if your lack of sleep is causing mental distress.

Help others

One study found that helping behaviour and other kinds of social interactions were linked with reduced stress and even longer lifespans.26, Try volunteering in your community or even lending a hand to people in your everyday life. Performing small acts of kindness can make you and the recipient of your generosity feel a boost in mood and well-being.

Learning coping skills

Learning healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress can go a long way in improving mental health.

Some productive coping mechanisms include getting emotional support from loved ones, finding humor in your everyday life, and taking action to better your situation.27 It’s all about finding what works best for you.

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a therapist works with patients to find the best coping skills for their unique circumstances.

Stay connected to others

Social interaction can reduce our stress levels, improve the symptoms of depression, and even benefit our physical health., Research has found that social connection has positive impacts on health categories like cancer, weight management, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Keep a positive outlook

Having social interactions in a setting such as group therapy, for instance, might be especially helpful if you are coping with a specific mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder or an eating disorder.

There are many health benefits to using optimism and positive thinking in your everyday life., One study found that participants with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who practiced replacing thoughts of negative outcomes with thoughts of positive ones experienced less worry over time than participants who didn’t imagine positive outcome

There are many factors that influence mental health and overall well-being. Individual factors play an important part, but social, environmental, and financial circumstances can also either enhance or worsen mental health.

It is important to seek help if you are having difficulties. Talk to a doctor or mental health professional if you need help improving your mental health or addressing a psychological problem

Mental health is about wellness rather than illness”

To make things a bit clearer, some experts have tried coming up with different terms to explain the difference between ‘mental health’ and ‘mental health conditions. Phrases such as ‘good mental health’, ‘positive mental health’, ‘mental wellbeing’, ‘subjective wellbeing’ and even ‘happiness’ have been proposed by various people to emphasize that mental health is about wellness rather than illness.

While some say this has been helpful, others argue that using more words to describe the same thing just adds to the confusion., As a result, others have tried to explain the difference by talking about a continuum where mental health is at one end of the spectrum – represented by feeling good and functioning well – while mental health conditions (or mental illness) are at the other – represented by symptoms that affect people’s thoughts, feelings or behaviour.

Can your mental health change over time?

Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors.  When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours, caring for a relative, or experiencing economic hardship, they may experience poor mental health.

How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States., More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.,1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.

For more info visit WHO and UN Websites or email Dr Azadeh On [email protected] or WhatsApp him on 002207774469 on week days from 3-6PM.

Dr H Azadeh is a senior lecturer at the University Of The Gambia and Clinical Director At Medicare Health Services.   

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