Let's Talk About Mental Health

So, I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while because let’s face it: People still don’t take mental health seriously (and its almost 2019). To some people, mental wellbeing is a touchy subject but that doesn’t mean we should avoid talking about it. It is all around us and it affects our lives. I know a lot of people who have a difficult time trying to navigate between work or school and existing in a social sphere – myself included. Life can get really stressful when a healthy balance is not met and when things don’t seem to go smoothly in one of these areas. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty stuff about psychological knowledge or anything that will leave you more confused after reading this article. I’m just going to get you thinking about mental health and why it’s important.


What is mental health?

In a nut shell, mental health is a person’s state of psychological well-being. Ideally, where they are able to function optimally in daily life and effectively deal with inevitable obstacles. The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community."


The disorders

Many people associate mental health problems with insanity due to the prevalence of common disorders such as schizophrenia (losing touch with reality), borderline personality disorder (ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image and behaviour) and obsessive compulsive personality disorder (having recurring unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations that make you feel driven to do something repetitively). Because schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder, people that suffer from it are often the most stigmatised. It affects the way people think, feel and behave. The symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, which involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist and delusions of things that are not based in reality. Of course, there are misconceptions that are cause for concern about so many other mental health disorders. In order to solve this problem in our society, it is best to understand the underlying causes of these misconceptions.



Cause of stigma associated with mental health problems

Our society is largely ignorant to mental health problems. Along with having to deal with the (sometimes devastating) effects that come with having mental health problems, people with mental disorders also suffer from social prejudices and exclusion. People with mental health problems are treated differently due to misguided views – such as the belief that certain disorders are attached to violence and unpredictability. Some ‘explanations’ of a number of disorders include spirit or demonic possession which have often been the reason people with mental health problems are feared and discriminated against. Other disorders are just not taken as seriously such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa due to the thought that people are able to solve these ‘minor’ life problems on their own or that they will eventually go away.  



What needs to be done?

The stigma associated with mental health is detrimental to treatment outcomes and makes it difficult for people to have an efficient and effective recovery from mental health problems. First of all, mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health. This starts with teaching people about mental disorders, and how they can be dealt with. Mental health awareness is very important and can be normalised by giving people the necessary knowledge to change the common misconceptions that make mental health stigmatisation a huge problem in our society. Awareness can be done through local campaigns that address how mental health is defined, what mental disorders are and the stigmas attached to them. Television advertisement, programmes, and promotional events need to show the correct facts on the subject matter and mental health should be included in primary and high school curriculums so that it can be understood and subsequently normalised in our society.



Mental health problems are real. Until we, as a society, start thinking about the importance of leading healthy mental lives, the problem will remain pervasive. The first step is admitting that we have a problem and then telling ourselves that we need help. Talk to someone: a family member, a stranger or even write it down in a journal – but do something about that feeling which affects your daily functioning. There are structures set up to help us deal with mental health problems. Never take how you feel for granted, no matter how insignificant you think the issue may be. Your feelings matter, you matter. Psychologists, counsellors, social workers and many other professionals are there to assist us in dealing with mental problems. You just need to find it in you to get up and knock on someone’s door to help you cope with what you are dealing with.