I feel like a good place to start this article would be by discussing what is actually meant by the term "Mental Health". We are hearing the phrase being used more and more, people even mention things like taking a "mental health day" from work or school. But what do we mean when we use this term, do we have a good understanding of this term as a nation? I don't know.

In this article, I'm going to answer some of the most common questions people have relating to Mental Health, but that nobody wants to ask:

  1. What is our Mental Health?
  2. How do we take care of our Mental Health?
  3. What are some of the most common Mental Health Disorders?
  4. What support is out there if we need it?

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

- Fred Rogers

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What Does the Term Mental Health Mean?

A lot of the time when we hear or read 'Mental Health' we instantly associate it with Mental illness or disorders such as Depression, Anxiety conditions, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder and others.

This common mistake is why teaching Mental Health Awareness is so important. The term Mental Health is actually about wellness rather than illness. 

Simply put, Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental Health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence right through to adulthood.

Once we understand this we can make sense of the following research.

Different studies have shown that when our Mental Health is good or positive it can be linked with increased learning, creativity and productivity, more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, and improved physical health and life expectancy.

Positive Mental Health comes from looking after our ongoing personal wellness and happiness.

Be in the moment
Remember when you were a child? If you saw one of these you had to pick it up and blow away all the seeds. You would just sit and wonder at that moment where they would land… We need more moments like this as we grow moments to just be. Photo by rosario janza on Unsplash

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health

As we now know, mental health doesn't necessarily refer to having a mental condition or illness. However, it is something you need to take care of and maintain an awareness that it can affect every aspect of your life if you do not.

Below I have created just a shortlist of things you can do that take a few moments to promote positive mental health as part of your daily or weekly routine:

  1. Connect with other people - spending time with others create self-confidence,  give us a sense of self-worth and provide emotional support while also allowing us to share our support with others. Some things you might want to try could include:
    • If possible, take time each day to be with your family, e.g, try arranging a time to eat dinner together
    • Arrange a day out with a group of friends you have not seen for a while
    • Have lunch with a colleague/people in your class
    • Help out at a community event
  2. Healthy body, healthy mind - this one sounds like a cliche but it's not. Keeping a balanced diet and undertaking regular physical activity does impact your mental health:
    • Even a short burst of 10 minutes' brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.
    • By partaking in regular physical activity even just a couple of times a week it can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety.
    • A healthy, well-balanced diet can help us think clearly and feel more alert.
    • Dehydration may increase your risk of anxiety and depression, among other unhealthy mental states.
  3. Appreciate the moment -  this one sounds like a given, but that's exactly why it's so easily overlooked. So many people forget to be present. Understanding that our mental health must start with us creating awareness of everything. Mindfulness is a relatively new treatment if you wish to call it that. Most people call it a practice because it is something you have to do for yourself it's a type of meditation but it's also a type of gratitude. Mindfulness or mindful meditation as it is sometimes called is all about being in the moment and being aware of your thoughts and your feelings without letting them affect you it's about bringing yourself back into the moment and appreciating every breath you take mindfulness or mindful meditation as it is sometimes called is all about being in the moment and being aware of your thoughts and your feelings without letting them affect you.
Mindful meditation
It's so important to take a moment to just reflect on all day and acknowledge no matter how small they are, the gratitude we have. Even if it's just that one good cup of coffee that kept us going -Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Most Common Mental Health Disorders

There are so many different types of conditions associated with mental health.

I'm going to provide you with a list of the five most common which I have found online, and although the signs are listed under each I want you to bear in mind that every case is individual. People may or may not display the signs and it is really up to professionals to diagnose mental disorders, not regular people.

Depression

The main sign depression people describe feeling 'low' and losing pleasure in things that were once enjoyable.

This low feeling of depression may be combined with others, such as feeling tearful, irritable or tired most of the time, changes in appetite, and problems with sleep, concentration and memory. People with depression typically have lots of negative thoughts and feelings of guilt and worthlessness; they often criticise themselves and lack confidence.

Anxiety

How many different types of anxiety disorder the most common are as follows:

  • General Anxiety Disorder - People who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder tend to be constantly worried and stressed, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it...
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - People who suffer from the obsessive-compulsive disorder have strong feelings or fear that if they do not carry out their compulsion something terrible will happen.
  • Panic Disorder - People who suffer from panic disorder can sometimes even panic about having another panic attack, the fear of this happening can be so overwhelming that I can put them into another state of attack.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder often live in flashbacks or dreams of a traumatic event that happened to them, this can be so overwhelming that they feel the fear taking over their body and it can manifest itself in shaking sweating and sometimes even more violent behaviour.
  • Social Anxiety - People who suffer from social anxiety tend to feel overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. It may be limited to only one type of situation such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others or, in its most severe form, it could be so severe that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.

Although each of these anxiety conditions is completely different, and the treatment for each health professional who helps people manage each disorder may be different, they all have one thing in common. Each of these disorders is deep-rooted in fear.

Mental Health Matters
As a form of low-impact exercise, yoga has been shown to lower stress hormones in our bodies while simultaneously increasing beneficial brain chemicals, these feel-good chemicals help decrease anxiety and improve mood.- Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

Mental Health Support Services in Ireland

Depending on what you're looking for there are different options available.

I've created a list of different support services and what they provide below:

  • YouTube  - Mindful Meditation tutorials
  • Superprof - Mental Health Tutors and Life Coaches
  • 50808 - is an anonymous texting service for anyone over the age of 16, provides a safe space where you’re listened to by a trained crisis volunteer. You text back and forth, only sharing what you feel comfortable with. By asking questions, listening to you and responding with support, they will help you sort through your feelings until you both feel you are now in a calm, safe place. Some of the issues they support include:
    • Stress
    • Anxiety
    • Substance Abuse
    • Depression
    • Physical Abuse
    • Bullying
  • Fettle - and easy to navigate and affordable network of accredited and qualified online therapists who can help you with anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, couples therapy and more. You can choose your therapist, or someone from the website will help you shorten the list if you describe what areas you wish your therapy to focus on.
  • HSE - Of course, there are public mental health services available in Ireland too, for more information on those, please click here.
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Maureen

Hey, I'm Maur/Mo, I'm a writer from Ireland. I've written a novel and a lot of poetry and fiction. Currently, I work as a content writer at superprof