This month is Mental Health Month in NSW, with October 10 designated as World Mental Health Day. This initiative aims to improve public awareness and interest in mental health and wellbeing.
Why does Mental Health matter?
One answer to this question could be, “How could it not matter?” As humans, we experience the world around us not only by means of our physical body, but also through our beliefs, perceptions, emotions, spirituality, social connectedness, and more. If we are physically healthy yet all the other components are struggling, our day to day experience of life will not be optimal. Furthermore, decades of research tells us that our physical health and mental health are not independent from one another; they have a bi-directional relationship.
Mental Health vs Mental Illness
Not unlike our physical health, our mental health will fluctuate over time. Nearly every Australian will experience at least mild, temporary mental health difficulties as a result of stressful circumstances. An estimated 45% of Australians will experience more severe symptoms that constitute a mental health disorder or mental illness, such as depression.
To define it simply, mental health is a state of well-being regarding the way we think, feel, and develop relationships. Good mental health means more than the absence of symptoms. It means the ability to manage life competently and to deal in a reasonably robust way with the challenges it inevitably throws at us from time to time. It means being able to take satisfaction and pleasure in everyday life and to be productive.
Mental illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders (for example, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or Schizophrenia), which are health conditions involving significant changes in our thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviour. These changes cause significant distress or impairment in daily life, for example work and relationships. Statistics indicate that 1 in 5 Australians will develop a mental illness in their lifetime.
We also refer sometimes to a mental health problem or issue. This is a difficulty in an area of mental health, does not interfere significantly in daily functioning, and is often transitory.
Emotional wellbeing in a broad topic with so many interesting components, most of which are applicable to all of us in some way or another. I look forward to sharing more aspects of this subject with you in practical and helpful ways.
An edited version of this article was published in Hello Neighbours magazine.