What exactly do we mean by mental health?

We recently observed World Mental Health Day, and the subject of mental health has received plenty of attention in the past year. From trying to understand mass shootings to examining high-profile suicides, there’s been a call for a greater awareness of mental health.

So what exactly is mental health, and why does it deserve to be such an issue? Mental health is a term that refers to the combination of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Those factors affect everything we do — how we think, feel, act, make decisions, get along with others, and deal with the stresses of daily life.

As with our physical health, we don’t think much about our mental health until we start to encounter problems. With physical health, symptoms alert us that something isn’t right. If we develop sniffles and a sore throat and feel tired, we know we’ve probably caught a cold or the flu. When we have changes in our mood, our behavior, or the way we think, something may be affecting our mental health. Sometimes those issues are temporary and go away on their own; other times, we might need some extra help.

Your mental health can be affected by many things. There may be biological causes, such as something in your genes, a change in your brain chemistry, or the effects of an injury. Experiences you’ve had such as abuse or trauma can also affect your mental health. Some people think mental health issues are just a sign of being weak or lazy, but that isn’t true.

Issues with mental health are more widespread than most of us realize. In a typical year, one in five adults deals with a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety. Again, it may be a temporary condition or it may require additional help. And about one in 25 Americans lives with a more serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Mental health problems do not discriminate. They affect all ages, races, and people of all income levels. In fact, people all around you — maybe even in your family — are dealing with mental health issues right now. That’s why it’s so important that we treat mental health seriously, and that we eliminate the old stigmas that are inaccurate. People with mental health issues aren’t “crazy” or “insane,” they’re just unhealthy at the moment. Like a neighbor who is physically sick, they may get better on their own or they may need professional help. And just as you wouldn’t shun a neighbor who was diagnosed with cancer or multiple sclerosis, you shouldn’t shun a neighbor with a mental illness.

Do you think you or someone you love may be facing a mental health challenge? Sitting down with one of our professional counselors can help determine whether that’s the case and get you or that person on the road to feeling better. Please contact us today to set a convenient time.

A recent talk from church leader, Louie Giglio on mental illness, depression, anxiety and suicide.