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Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The WHO constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it can help you to

  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be physically healthy
  • Have good relationships
  • Make meaningful contributions to your community
  • Work productively
  • Realize your full potential

Determinants of mental health

Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time. For example, violence and persistent socio-economic pressures are recognized risks to mental health. The clearest evidence is associated with sexual violence. Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations. There are specific psychological and personality factors that make people vulnerable to mental health problems. Biological risks include genetic factors.

How to Assess Your Mental Well–Being

When you’re sick, your first instinct is most likely to take your temperature and see if you have a fever. That’s great for assessing physical ailments, but how do you screen for mental health?

The best thing you can do is look for common symptoms that would indicate your mental health needs attention. These symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Appetite Changes (loss of or increase of)
  • Apathy
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Difficulty in Concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Disconnection from Personal Community
  • Uncharacteristic Behaviors
  • Irritability
  • Sadness (without a triggering traumatic event)
  • Thoughts of Suicide or Harming Others
  • Substance Abuse


If you experience one or more of these symptoms for an extended amount of time, seek assistance from a medical professional. In the same way that it is acceptable and necessary to receive treatment for a physical injury, there is no shame in seeking help for mental issues.


How can I improve my mental health?

There are many different things you can do to improve your mental health, including

  • Staying positive. It’s important to try to have a positive outlook; some ways to do that include
    • Finding balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn’t mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations. They can help you to respond to a problem. But you don’t want those emotions to take over. For example, it’s not helpful to keep thinking about bad things that happened in the past or worry too much about the future. Taking a break from negative information. Know when to stop watching or reading the news. Use social media to reach out for support and feel connected to others but be careful. Distractions are everywhere. It’s not just about productivity – too much screen time can also be bad for your health. Turn off notifications and alerts when you can from your email. Choose a time for checking social media during the day, but then stay off of it after that point. Close your social media feed after you’ve checked it. Turn off your screens before bed for a more restful night.

    • Don’t fall for rumors, get into arguments, or negatively compare your life to others. Realize you are unique and you have special abilities and talent which will help you become successful and give you happiness. Tell yourself that this is just a temporary phase in your life where you are feeling sad and demotivated and this is going to pass soon. Explore your talents by keeping an open mind and do more of those things which gives you happiness and keeps you excited.
  • Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life. It’s helpful to do this every day, either by thinking about what you are grateful for or writing it down in a journal. These can be big things, such as the support you have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal. It’s important to allow yourself a moment to enjoy that you had the positive experience. Practicing gratitude can help you to see your life differently. For example, when you are stressed, you may not notice that there are also moments when you have some positive emotions. Gratitude can help you to recognize them.
  • Taking care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health are connected. Some ways to take care of your physical health include
    • Getting enough sleep. Sleep affects your mood. If you don’t get a good sleep, you may become more easily annoyed and angry. Over the long term, a lack of quality sleep can make you more likely to become depressed. So it’s important to make sure that you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep every night.
    • Healthy eating. Good nutrition will help you feel better physically but could also improve your mood and decrease anxiety and stress. Also, not having enough of certain nutrients may contribute to some mental illnesses. For example, there may be a link between low levels of vitamin B12 and depression. Eating a well-balanced diet can help you to get enough of the nutrients you need.
  • Connecting with others. Humans are social creatures, and it’s important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress. It is also good to have different types of connections. Besides connecting with family and friends, you could find ways to get involved with your community or neighborhood. For example, you could volunteer for a local organization or join a group that is focused on a hobby you enjoy.
  • Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life. This could be through your job, volunteering, learning new skills, or exploring your spirituality.
  • Developing coping skills, which are methods you use to deal with stressful situations. They may help you face a problem, take action, be flexible, and not easily give up in solving it.
  • Meditation, which is a mind and body practice where you learn to focus your attention and awareness. There are many types, including mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. Meditation usually involves
    • A quiet location with as few distractions as possible
    • A specific, comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down, walking, or another position.
    • A focus of attention, such as a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or your breathing
    • An open attitude, where you try to let distractions come and go naturally without judging them
  • Relaxation techniques are practices you do to produce your body’s natural relaxation response. This slows down your breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces muscle tension and stress. Types of relaxation techniques include
    • Progressive relaxation, where you tighten and relax different muscle groups, sometimes while using mental imagery or breathing exercises
    • Guided imagery, where you learn to focus on positive images in your mind, to help you feel more relaxed and focused
    • Biofeedback, where you use electronic devices to learn to control certain body functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension
    • Self-hypnosis, where the goal is to get yourself into a relaxed, trance-like state when you hear a certain suggestion or see a specific cue
    • Deep breathing exercises, which involve focusing on taking slow, deep, even breaths

It’s also important to recognize when you need to get help. Talk therapy and/or medicines can treat mental disorders. If you don’t know where to get treatment, start by contacting your primary care provider.

Mental health care and treatment

In the context of national efforts to develop and implement mental health policy, it is vital to not only protect and promote the mental well-being of its citizens, but also address the needs of persons with defined mental disorders.

Knowledge of what to do about the escalating burden of mental disorders has improved substantially over the past decade. There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating both the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of key interventions for priority mental disorders in countries at different levels of economic development. Examples of interventions that are cost-effective, feasible, and affordable include:

  • treatment of depression with psychological treatment and, for moderate to severe cases, antidepressant medicines;
  • treatment of psychosis with antipsychotic medicines and psychosocial support;
  • taxation of alcoholic beverages and restriction of their availability and marketing.

A range of effective measures also exists for the prevention of suicide, prevention and treatment of mental disorders in children, prevention and treatment of dementia, and treatment of substance-use disorders. The mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) has produced evidence based guidance for non-specialists to enable them to better identify and manage a range of priority mental health conditions.