What is Mental Health?
We all have mental health. Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is, as defined by the World Health Organization, the state of being in which an individual realizes his or her own potential, copes with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. In very basic terms, when we have “good” mental health we are more able to cope with stress, are more productive, and feel good about ourselves. When we are in “poor” mental health, it is more difficult to cope, to achieve, and to feel happy and satisfied.
Mental illness and those who live with it are often misunderstood.
A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thinking, perception and behavior. Mental illness can affect anyone. While some illnesses have a genetic risk, mental illness can affect people of all ages, races and income levels, whether there is a family history or not. Mental illness may be a lifelong condition for some people, but with treatment it is possible for them to lead fulfilling and productive lives. A key part of their recovery includes support from their family, friends and community.
It is also important to know what mental illness isn’t.
Mental illness is not shameful. It is not a sign of personal weakness.
It is a misconception that people living with a mental illness are often violent, when in fact people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime. While about 95 percent of violence is committed by people with no serious mental illness, more than 90 percent of those who die from suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder. Worldwide, suicide is a leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 44. Studies have shown that proper treatment significantly lowers that risk.
Because mental illnesses are widely misunderstood, people often hide their conditions from friends, coworkers, and loved ones out of fear and embarrassment. All too often, the stigma attached to mental illness keeps people from getting diagnosed and treated. If you are living with mental illness, remember, you are not alone and there are many resources available to help you to cope.
If you have a friend, family member, or colleague who you know is struggling with their mental health, ask them how they are doing. Reach out to those around you with compassion, empathy and understanding and never be afraid to offer your support.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately. This is a 24-hour service available to anyone in need of help.