According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Only around 17% of American adults are considered to be in the best mental health. Research studies suggest that good mental health is related to better health outcomes.
What is mental illness?
Mental illness is when a person is diagnosed with a mental disorder that affects their thinking, mood or behavior. The disorder can lead to distress or an inability to function. The most common type of mental illness is depression. Almost a quarter of American adults suffer from depression. By 2020, it is estimated that depression will be the second leading cause for disability in the world, second only to heart disease.
The four major mental health disorders are:
• Depression: Depression is when a person is persistently sad and sometimes irritable (particularly children).
• Anxiety: Anxiety disorders cause people to have excessive and unrealistic worry about everyday tasks or events. The excessive worrying may be specific to certain objects or rituals.
• Psychotic Disorders: Psychotic disorders affect the normal way people think. People may have symptoms of delusions, which are false beliefs . They may also have hallucinations, which are hearing and/or seeing things that are not there and that others cannot hear or see.
• Bipolar Disorders: Bipolar disorder, which also used to be known as “manic-depressive disorder,” is when a person commonly experiences episodes of depression and episodes of mania. Mania causes a person’s mood to be elevated, unrestrained, or irritable. It can cause them to have an overly large feeling of importance. It can also cause sleeplessness, racing thoughts, and fast speech. Mania can lead people to behave in ways that may be fun, but very risky.
Mental disorders affect how a person feels and functions, but they can also have a large effect on physical health. Many people who are suffering from a mental disorder, especially depression, are likely to not be physically active, smoke, excessively drink and not sleep enough. This may be the reason why mental disorders, especially depressive disorders, are strongly related to other chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma, and obesity.
How can you protect your mental health?
Public health officials have focused more of their time and resources on the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness than mental health. This is understandable since many people are in need of mental health screening and treatment and may not have access to these resources. However, little has been done to help protect the mental health of people who do not have a mental illness.
If you do not suffer from a mental health disorder, what can you do to keep it that way? Studies suggest the following three areas that promote good mental health:
• Emotional well-being: being satisfied with your life, being happy, cheerful, or at peace.
• Psychological well-being: self-acceptance, being open to new experiences, optimistic, hopeful, having purpose in life, having control of your environment, spirituality, and having positive relationships.
• Social well-being: social acceptance, believing in the potential of people and society as a whole, a strong sense of personal self-worth and feeling useful to society, and a sense of community.
Even though these three areas are indicators of mental health, there are some things that need to be in place to support mental health. These include good housing, safe neighborhoods, good jobs and wages, quality education, and access to quality health care.
Mental Health (2015). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Program Performance and Evaluation Office.