For the vast majority of people, the past years have been incredibly challenging. The restrictions and loneliness of lockdown have added to the stress and worry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move forward, it is more crucial than ever to take care of your mental health.
This is why mental health has been such an important topic, how events such as Mental Health Awareness Week can help, and some proven methods for helping you take care of your own mental health.
What is mental health?
To begin, let’s define mental health. The term mental health refers to an individual’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. The World Health Organisation further defines it as “a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises 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”.
What are mental health issues?
Consequently, when we talk about mental health, we are referring to both internal and external factors that can impact individuals’ emotional health and wellbeing. And when we use the term mental health issue, we’re referring to conditions that affect the way a person thinks, their mood, and ability to cope.
There is a range of mental health problems that can impact us, and many of these are more common than you might think. According to Singapore Mental Health Study, 1 in 7 Singaporean faces a mood, anxiety or alcohol-use disorder in their lifetime. It is also estimated 18% of youth are suffering from depression, and seniors have also been shown to be at an increased risk of depression and suicide.
Mental health problems can affect people of all ages and in many ways. Such diagnoses can only be made by a medical professional or mental health professional. Some common examples include:
- Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
What does positive mental health look like?
According to the World Federation for Mental Health, positive mental health includes a feeling of safety and comfort and coping with challenging situations with a sense of being connected with others. It’s very crucial to recognise that ‘positive’ mental health doesn’t simply mean the absence of diagnosable mental health issues. Equally, it’s something that is personal to each individual. For example, our workshop on the journey to positive mental health highlights several different opinions:
How to take care of your mental health
Having learned what mental health is and why positive mental wellbeing is so crucial, let’s take a look at some ways you can take care of your own health. Of course, it’s important to first note that you should seek out a medical professional if you are struggling with your mental health.
In the following section, we’ll share some tips for enhancing your mental health. Many of these are backed by evidence, although not every method will be suitable for all. Furthermore, these don’t represent a ‘cure’ for mental health issues – they’re to help promote positive mental health.
1. Identify the symptoms
Keeping your mental health in tip-top shape also involves knowing when something is wrong. Of course, we all have bad days now and then. Understanding the warning signs of poor mental health can help you take action when it’s necessary. Understanding some of the symptoms of mental health conditions can help. Similarly, taking note of your own feelings and experiences can help you identify when something is wrong.
2. Talk to someone
Though it’s not always easy, talking about your feelings is imperative for maintaining good mental health. It can help you to not only cope with and deal with your mental burdens but also feel supported and connected by others. For instance, having a support group can be a valuable step toward healing.
Support groups are made up of people dealing with similar difficulties. That may be coping with a specific medical condition, such as a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, bereavement, or addiction. Whatever issues you or a loved one are facing, though, the best medicine can often be the voice of people who have walked in your shoes.
3. Focus on wellbeing such as meditation
Maintaining positive mental health can be achieved through various techniques. Among those that have been studied extensively are mindfulness and meditation. These techniques have been proven to decrease stress as well as improve mental health and wellbeing. The World Health Organization even recommends the practice of mindfulness as a way of managing depression. Studies suggest that meditation reduces stress, enhances well-being, and can even help treat anxiety, addiction, aggression, and depression.