What is Mental Health?

9 October, 2020

Mental health is the emotional, psychological and social well-being in life. It is about the way we act, feel, think, handle stress, relate to others and make decisions.


What about mental illness?


Mental illness (mental health disorders) refers to a wide range of conditions – disorders affecting your thinking, mood and behaviour. Examples of mental illness include: anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, schizophrenia and addictive behaviours.


Do you talk about your mental health problem?


When you are having emotional problems, the first step to feeling better is to find a way to talk about how you are feeling. This is, however, very difficult for many people. They don’t know how to start the conversation, who to talk to and what to say. Maybe you have tried before and got bad reactions, maybe you can’t find the words to describe how you feel, maybe you are worried that people may think you are weird and leave you out, maybe you don’t want to be treated differently, maybe you are scared to even start. There are many reasons why it is hard to reach out but the benefits of speaking up far outweigh the cost. The truth is there is no right way or best way to talk about mental health issues, but just acknowledging that you need help is the most important part of dealing with it. Talking about it may be easy but it is the vital part
of getting help.


How to support someone with a mental health problem?


Sometimes it will seem obvious when someone is going through a hard time but there is no simple way of knowing if they have a mental health problem. Sometimes you don’t even need to know, but all that is important is that you respond sensitively to someone who seems troubled.


● Be there for the person – provide an open and non-judgmental space;
● Don’t try to diagnose or even second guess their feelings;
● Let them lead the discussion – don’t pressure someone to talk about what they aren’t ready to talk about;
● Let them share as much or as little as they want to;
● Talk about wellbeing – exercise, healthy eating, taking a break, ways of de-stressing;
● Ask if there is someone, they would like you to contact;
● Encourage them to seek professional help;
● Look for help and provide information.
● Long-lasting sadness or irritability;
● Extremely high and low moods;
● Excessive fear, worry or anxiety;
● Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
● Social withdrawal.


Stigma is a problem!

Stigma can worsen someone’s mental health problems, delay getting help or treatment and recovery. Stigma traps people in a cycle of illness. Stigma arises from lack of awareness, lack of education, lack of perception and the nature and complications of mental illness.


Breaking the stigma is a form of suicide prevention. We must remember that mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible.


Each of us needs to:

● Recognize stigma and respond to the needs of those that are stigmatized
● Address social stigma – we can use media to create awareness and develop compassion


Where to get help?

• South African Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800 56 7567 / 080 020 5026

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