Understanding mental health – Final part

 The issue of stigma is further challenged by the lack of quality mental-health services in low-and middle-income countries.

Efforts are needed to overcome stigma regarding mental health con­ditions in the youth across their life courses.

Our mental health directly influ­ences how we think, feel and act: it also affects our physical health. Work, in fact, is actually one of the best things for protecting our men­tal health, but it can also adversely affect it.

Good mental health and well-being is not an on-off experience. We can all have days, weeks or months where we feel resilient, strong and optimis­tic, regardless of events or situations.

Often that can be mixed with or shifted to a very different set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours; or not feeling resilient and optimistic in just one or two areas of our lives.

For about 25 per cent of us, that may shift to having a significant impact on how we think, feel and act in many parts of our lives, including relationships, experiences at work, sense of connection to peer groups and our personal sense of worth, physical health and motivation.

This could lead to us developing a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.

Mental health is a positive concept related to the social and emotional wellbeing of people and communities.

The concept relates to the en­joyment of life, ability to cope with stress and sadness, the fulfilment of goals and potential, and a sense of connection to others. Mental health is about wellness rather than illness and is not merely the absence of a mental health condition.

Like physical health, mental health is not fixed. Mental health exists on a continuum, or range: from posi­tive, healthy functioning at one end through to severe symptoms of mental health conditions at the other.

A person’s mental health moves back and forth along this range during their lifetime, in response to different stressors and circumstances. At the green end of the continuum, people are well; showing resilience and high levels of wellbeing.

Moving into the yellow area, peo­ple may start to have difficulty cop­ing. In the orange area, people have more difficulty coping and symptoms may increase in severity and frequen­cy.

At the red end of the continuum, people are likely to be experiencing severe symptoms and may be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

Risk factors and protective fac­tors influence mental health and can nudge people back and forth along the continuum. They can be individual or related to family, work or other life circumstances.

Risk factors may increase the strain on our mental health, while protective factors can counteract these by helping us to stay or become well. With much of people’s time each day spent at work, the workplace is a very influential environment when it comes to mental health and wellbe­ing.

A positive and supportive work­place can mean the difference be­tween being ‘in the green’ or ‘in the orange’. (Source Beyond blue).

The purpose of this information is to give you greater understanding of these issues. If you are concerned about yourself or a colleague, profes­sional assistance is recommended.

By Ekow Grimmond-Thompson

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