Mental Health & Wellbeing
What is mental ill health?
Mental ill health refers to illnesses that have their basis in the brain and our brain is a part of our body’s nervous system. In the same way that the pancreas plays a role in diabetes, or the health of our blood vessels play a role in hypertension, our brain plays a role in everything we do, including our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. These three elements can be disrupted if there are biological changes in the brain.The term mental ill health covers a wide range of disorders such as depression, social anxiety disorder, bulimia nervosa, and substance use disorder, just to name a few, and although mental disorders differ, they all generally involve changes in biology, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. How mental ill health develops is not fully understood, and there is more understanding of some disorders than others. Mental ill health does not arise because a person is weak, or because they haven’t tried hard enough to stay well or to look after themselves. It is not a character flaw, it is an illness, like an illness in any other part of our body. Click here to learn more about several specific mental health conditions.
Mental and physical wellbeing
It is very important that we all strive to keeping as healthy as we can both mentally and physically. Doing so encompasses a number of factors, including:
- Try and keep stress to a manageable level. Often aspects of stressful situations are outside of your control, but trying to focus on those elements that you do have control over, and can make decisions over prevents feelings of hopeless and helplessness to take hold.
- Exercise has been found to promote brain function through impacting on a number of brain chemicals. Studies of physical activity have shown participants have better mood states, improved quality of life and physical functioning.
- Connecting with others. Having people in your social network that you can spend time with, call on for support if needed is a big factor in keeping mentally well. It also helps build resilience for those tougher times.
- At difficult times try and find helpful coping strategies that are good for you in the long term (e.g., relaxation and problem solving techniques). Avoiding things like alcohol, smoking or other drugs will help you recover from difficult times much better.
- Having a good nights sleep. Sleep disruption can have significant mental (and physical) health consequences including anxiety and depression. Having a regular routine of going to bed around the same time and getting up around the same time contributes to well being. Ongoing sleep disturbance shouldn’t be ignored and professional help should be sought.
- There is emerging work that is suggesting a link between diet and mental well being. Poor diets have been associated with difficulties with memory and attention. Diets that seem to be most beneficial from a mental health perspective is food that is unprocessed and is rich in nutrients.
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