About a quarter of the population experience some kind of mental health problem in any one year (www.mind.org.uk). People who are diagnosed with poor mental health or distress often have feelings or behave in ways which are unacceptable to themselves or others. It also makes them think and feel in a different way.
Some of these people are treated with drugs but it is felt that seeing people problems with feelings and behaviours as illnesses that require medical treatment is too narrow a view. It discourages us from thinking about the many influences on person’s life, which can cause this distress. And it stops us exploring the various non-medical options open to people for overcoming their difficulties.
What causes mental health problems?
The opinions as to what causes mental health problems vary a lot. Some possible causes are:
Family background – if someone felt uncared for – or was abused – they can be left feeling insecure and become vulnerable to mental distress.
Suppression of feelings – in our society we don’t often express feelings – it we bottle things up this may lead to physical and mental ill health.
Stressful life events – such as bereavement, work stress, parenting, loss, separation from a partner etc.
Bio-chemistry – our bodies can affect our minds – for example if we are frightened we produce a hormone called adrenaline – if this is not used up our minds are left over active and our bodies tense
Genes – these determine some of the characteristics that are passed on by our parents, e.g. hair colour. It is possible that it can also affect our personalities – there may be genes which cause mental health problems. Although a lot of research has been done on this nothing has been proved.
What are the symptoms of mental health problems?
Most common problems of mental health problems are anxiety and depression. These can both be severe and have a massive impact on people’s ability to get on with life.
What help is out there?
- One of the major sources of help is counselling. Counselling allows you to talk about your feelings. It provides you a confidential safe space where you can explore your problems and find your own solutions to living without anxiety or depression.
Other ways to help is by taking up the following:
- Stay active. Exercise is important to helping you feeling good. It helps you ‘get out’ of the house as well as help clear your mind and it can make you feel better.
- Eat well. What you eat is so important to how you look and feel. If you do not have a healthy diet you will feel lethargic and often reach for ‘comfort’ foods. These foods may make you feel good when you eat them but often they are unhealthily and make you feel hungrier later.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is known to be an anti-depressant and will make you feel worse about yourself. It is also important to drink lots of water. It is believed that water can help you stop feeling tired all the time.
- Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. They people love you unconditionally and are great company to be around.
- Accept who you are. A common phrase is ‘you can’t run away from yourself’. You therefore have to accept yourself and love yourself. Do not strive to be someone else.