Mental Health 101: What Is Mental Health And What Are The Basic Symptoms?

Shivani K ·
Mental Health 101: What Is Mental Health And What Are The Basic Symptoms?

Readers, before we begin this article, let us all take a deep breath together and evaluate our feelings. If you pay attention, you will notice that our feelings are constantly changing from one moment to the next- sometimes, in the most subtle of ways. These feelings dictate how we act, think, and even have effects on our body. These are unique to you and hence, your mental landscape will not look exactly like anyone else’s. Find out all about the complexities of our minds below:

Understanding Mental Wellness

Mental health can be defined as the behavioural, social, psychological and cognitive well-being of a person. It is often attributed to the lack of a serious disorder, but the fact is that most people you know are struggling with some sort of mental health issue. At times, there is no definitive cause and that is what makes tackling the problem so tricky (but very possible). So, if you struggle with your mental health, just remember that there is hope and that you are never alone.

“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but, importantly, YOU ARE NOT THE RAIN.” — Matt Haig

In India, mental health is extremely stigmatized, and the taboo runs deep! Most people function at a highly productive level despite their mental struggles which can creep up on them when they least expect it. Severe cases can lead to chronic disorders and even taking one’s own life. In fact, India has the second-highest suicide mortality rate in the world and around 94 million Indians are suspected to battle depression and anxiety. These shocking statistics are a true indication of the lack of social awareness around emotional stability. So how should we as individuals address this? To unravel the misconceptions associated with it, acceptance and education are key! This way, the fear people have in discussing and dealing with mental health can be revolutionized. We can see examples of how this is changing in the media as well. In recent years, Deepika Padukone and other celebrities have started important conversations around psychological disorders like depression. And now, it is on us to take them to our friends and family too!

The Main Factors That Affect Mental Health:

Our emotional patterns are affected by numerous factors that impact our work, personal relationships and routine activities.

  • Childhood Trauma: The way we respond to the external world is molded by the beginning years of our lives. When the brain is just developing, we pick up on the habits of our parents, teachers and those closest to us. If negative behaviours are regularly inflicted on children, it creates instabilities in their psyche that leak well into adulthood! Did you know that research suggests childhood trauma changes the way your genes are expressed?! (1)
  • Societal Influence: Financial status, social acceptance, housing, ethnicity, age and gender are major contributors to mental health. An example of this is the lack of women’s rights in society which leads to ostracization and serious mental health problems.
  • Physical/ Biological Factors: A few mental disturbances like depression and schizophrenia have a hereditary link to them. Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that involves hallucinations, delusions and trouble with thinking and motivation. Besides our genes, conditions like diabetes, thyroid imbalances, chronic pain and cancer can also trigger stress and anxiety.


When To Get Help?

Here is a list of some of the basic symptoms you can look out for. If you experience a significant number of them for several weeks together, you must reach out to someone for help! 

  • Avoiding social interaction or extreme isolation 
  • Sleeping and/or eating too much or too little
  • Lack of purpose and motivation 
  • Constant brain fog
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Harmful thoughts for the self or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like work or chores

How To Tackle Mental Distress:

For the longest time, mental illness was equated to demonic possession and other radical theories that deemed it untreatable. In many parts of the country, this still holds good. To overcome this kind of misinformation, we must wield the power of KNOWLEDGE.

By understanding the root causes of our psychological ailments, we can get one step closer to getting the help we need. There are various ways to treat mental illnesses, including professional help (therapy), lifestyle changes/ self-help and medication. As mentioned earlier, your mental state is individualistic and hence, the treatment should be as well. What works for someone else, may not work for you - finding the right fit may take some time and patience, but in the end, it will be worth your while! To find out more on the subject, there are superb resources available for you to rely on. For instance, Minds Foundation is an NGO working tirelessly to provide education and support to those affected by mental illnesses. 

Taking care of our health goes beyond just the physical side of things- tapping into the status of our minds is essential to our happiness. And being happy is one of the ultimate goals of life, don’t you think? It is what drives us to contribute to ourselves and our society as a whole, so let us educate ourselves on this serious topic, one that carries a heavy weight. After all, the more we shed light on it, the more it changes for the better.

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