Mental health is a collective of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions that influences day-to-day activities. It highlights the social existence, displays people’s emotional abilities, and controls key psychological triggers that affect a person’s well-being and outlook. Right from a young age all the way up to the golden years, it is important to maintain good mental health. But often, one might find themselves struggling with issues that are beyond comprehension, and that’s when one may need medical intervention.
Read on to find out more about these illnesses or disorders, and explore possible options toward improving one’s outlook in lieu of said problems.
Fast facts about mental health issues
Before we begin to understand the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, here are a few key facts about the condition to note.
- Most neurological and substance abuse disorders make up 10% of the diseases known on a global scale.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally at least 1 in 5 children and pre-adolescent teens may have some mental health issues.
- In the country alone, 1 in every 5 adults have mental health issues, 1 in 25 adults suffer from severe mental disorders, and three-fourth of chronic mental illnesses develop by the age of 24.
- Over 264 million people, according to available WHO statistics, are known to suffer from depression, one of the most common symptoms of mental health issues.
- Children are known to have exhibited symptoms from half of the known mental health disorders by the age of 14.
- Mental disorders can affect longevity, and people might die as early as 10 to 20 years before any other unaffected person.
- Major developed and developing countries, roughly accounting for half of the 139 nations, have mental health policies in place, whereas the rest don’t have a concrete plan to supplement these needs.
- Depression and anxiety are among the leading causes of loss of productivity. In fact, according to estimates, nearly 1 trillion dollars is lost due to a lack of productivity and efficiency caused by mental health issues.
Understand that mental problems may stem from a situation, or an unforgettable experience, or even can be a result of poor genetics. There is no single cause, and often, illnesses are attributed to the following triggers.
- Adverse situations in life
A traumatic experience in early childhood, more commonly referred to as adverse childhood experience (ACE), can be one of the initial triggers of mental illness, which may include witnessing or experiencing neglect, abuse, or violence. There may have been events that forced the child to grow up without stability, safety, or even a sense of bonding.
- Health complications
If a person is already suffering from health complications, its adverse effects can trigger mental illness. It may not be a direct cause, but symptoms of these conditions can result in mental stress.
- Genetic imbalance
Certain biological factors and genetic imbalances that result in the passing of bad genes or chemical imbalances in the neural functions can result in mental illnesses.
- Social factors
People who live in isolation or are burdened with loneliness due to a limited social life or activity may be at a higher risk of developing mental illnesses.
There are many different types of mental illnesses, and each condition exhibits different signs and symptoms with varying levels of intensity. Often, a person’s age and outlook also determine how the symptoms develop. That is why a clear distinction has to be made based on these factors.
Developing signs in young children
Children in school may exhibit some clear symptoms as mental illness starts to affect their performance or day-to-day abilities. Getting poor grades due to general lack of interest in studies or school activities, and a persistent refusal to go to school may indicate a problem. Parents will also notice an aggressive change in their behavior, including throwing tantrums, hyperactivity, excessive worrying, anxiety, and even persistent disobedience. Children may also become erratic in terms of their sleeping habits and may occasionally experience nightmares triggered due to a traumatic experience or event. In any case, if these symptoms persist, parents must consider taking the young one to a child therapist. The earlier the problem is diagnosed in progressive, the faster and better is the duration of recovery.
Developing signs in pre-teens aged 12 or under
Pre-adolescent children may experience more behavior-based changes than younger children when it comes to the first signs of mental health problems. Older children might also turn to substance abuse, defiance of authority, or create a public nuisance by turning to vandalism or theft when the symptoms hit their peak. Moreover, pre-adolescent children may experience frequent episodes of rage and may remain in a prolonged state of negativity. These mood changes can also cause intense fear. Children may also experience difficulty in accomplishing basic responsibilities, not sleep properly, and suffer from some physical ailments. These are the telltale signs that separate young children from pre-adolescent teens, and it is imperative that this distinction is established early.
Developing signs in young adults and adults
Depression, morbid thoughts, prolonged confusion, feelings of extreme euphoria, sudden depression without warning, excessive fear, and anxiety about everything are some of the clear signs of a developing mental condition in adults. Experiencing rage, delusions, and social withdrawal, coupled with changes in eating and sleeping habits are all warning signs. Moreover, the inability to cope with problems and the suffering from unexplained physical ailments triggered due to stress are all strong indicators of mental health issues. These symptoms should not be overlooked, and immediate psychiatric consultation should be sought to understand the problems.
One’s coping with symptoms before, during, and even after treatment begins with acceptance. One must be willing to accept that there is a problem so that it can be addressed early on. Furthermore, one needs to explore ways to handle sudden and overwhelming behavioral changes with the help of a support group. It always helps to have friends and family who provide a loving and caring environment and, most importantly, understand what one might be going through. Therapy and counseling are key factors that determine the well-being of a person who has mental issues.
It is important to understand that there is no certain way of preventing mental illness from affecting someone. At best, one can make a few lifestyle changes to cope with the many triggers and reduce the chances of health complications due to mental illness. The following avenues can be explored to bring about a positive change in lifestyle and habits.
- Basic changes in lifestyle
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help boost mental health significantly. Exercise helps the body produce and release endorphins (also called happy hormones) to stimulate a positive outlook and well-being, which is further supplemented by a nutritious diet to overcome lethargy and other weaknesses that may disrupt one’s routine. More importantly, one must get plenty of rest, as sleep helps the body and mind relax and rejuvenate for a new day of activities. It helps to prepare, plan, and maintain a regular schedule.
- Routine medical care
It is advisable to consult with a medical professional as soon as the first signs of mental discomforts start showing. Note that the warning signs of persistent sadness, confusion, fear, anxiety, detachment, and reduced ability to cope with day-to-day activities are indicators of developing mental illness. As most of these conditions are progressive with no direct cure, long-term treatment is the only best option to manage the symptoms. Medications and therapy are part of the ongoing healthcare means necessary to manage these illnesses. One must take help when they need it the most to benefit from the available care and facilities.
It is imperative to stay motivated, have someone boost one’s morale when down, and generally avoid feelings that may trigger mental health issues, and, as mentioned earlier, a loving environment, wherein one is surrounded by friends and family who care for each other, helps in overcoming problems associated with mental illnesses.
Diagnosis & treatment options
There is no test to determine whether a person has a mental illness. Paying attention to the warning signs and individually addressing the symptoms individually are the only ways to determine a developing problem. Also, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions vary from individual to individual; there is no unified action plan. Factors like the type of mental disorder, its internal triggers, symptoms, and the severity of persistent symptoms determine a course of treatment. Also, in many instances, treatment is reserved for severe cases and often entails a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Treatment and consultation for mental health issues are usually done by either a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist. General counseling is an open option available with one’s primary care provider. However, it is recommended that one also consults a specialist who has intimate knowledge of the condition. He or she can better guide the affected person, family, and friends through the course of treatment.
Best brain foods for boosting mental health
Medications and treatments aside, there are a few healthy foods and beverages that boost brain function and help reduce the effects of prolonged discomforts.
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. And research shows that these fatty acids help boost brain function optimally. omega-3, in particular, helps repair and rebuild the membranes around the brain cells, thus improving the function of neurons that transmit signals back and forth.
- Fresh veggies
Green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and avocados, are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals for essential body functions. Both kale and broccoli are rich in glucosinolates, and when broken down, they release isothiocyanates to help relieve any oxidative stress. Other cruciferous vegetables, including turnips, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, are great veggies that boost brain health.
- Whole grains, nuts, and seeds
Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are immensely beneficial for the body. They are a great source of vitamin E. Nuts and seeds are also loaded with antioxidants and vitamin E that help battle the oxidative damage caused due to mental disorders. Good alternatives for regular consumption include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds.
Berries are loaded with a ton of antioxidants that help manage the inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, improve communications between cells in the neural network, and reduce cognitive decline due to certain neurodegenerative disorders. And one can choose from a variety of berries, including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, and even blackcurrants.
The best source of cocoa is dark chocolate, and there is a very good reason why chocolate is considered comfort food. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, both vital compounds that trigger the production of brain cells, especially in the regions of the brain involved with memory and learning. These rich nutrients also help stimulate better blood flow in the brain by boosting oxygenated blood to be pumped in and out efficiently. Another good beverage option is coffee, which helps maintain and increase concentration.
It is always advisable to consult with the primary care provider and a certified nutritionist to understand the benefits and concerns associated with certain foods. On the one hand, these foods may help promote brain function and activity; on the other hand, it is crucial to know if regular consumption can result in other health complications.
Understand that, at the end of the day, it is only possible to maintain a healthy outlook toward life by paying attention to one’s physical and mental needs. Physical ailments are treatable to a great extent, whereas mental health issues can only be managed in the long term. There is no direct cure. However, with timely intervention and proactive steps to ensure one’s well-being, it is more than possible to improve the quality of life of people suffering from mental health disorders.