Mental Health: Comprehending, Coping, and Conquering

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 8/2/2019, 4:01 a.m.
More than a feeling of melancholy, anxiety, and disconnect, mental health encompasses your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Meaning it ...

More than a feeling of melancholy, anxiety, and disconnect, mental health encompasses your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Meaning it affects how you think, feel, and behave. Mental health can affect anyone, at any age, at any time. Nearly 44 million people experience mental illness yearly. Of those, 18% of them are children who experience at least one severe mental disorder according to reports. Good news is that mental health is treatable and preventable.

What is mental health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental health is a chemical imbalance in the body. In the brain, there are numerous neurons (cells) that are controlled by chemical substances called neurotransmitters. There are over fifty neurotransmitters and some that are related to mental health are Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Gamma Aminobutyric Acid. Serotonin helps to control body temp and sleep while the other neurotransmitters will produce psychiatric conditions if not at the right levels.

Dopamine focuses on your thinking and movement. It is linked to illnesses like Parkinson’s disease that cause muscle rigidity. Norepinephrine is associated with your stress levels with a fight or flight response and may increase your blood pressure and heart rate. GABA really connects with your emotions and can cause your communication to take a downward fall. Communication between the brain and neurons is facilitated by neurotransmitters. Different bodily functions are controlled by various neurotransmitters. Thus, neurotransmitters and mental health have a tight connection. When there is a disturbance, a mental health episode may occur.

Classes of mental illness

The Mayo Clinic has broken mental illness down into 20 classes. The top five being:

*Neurodevelopmental disorders: These disorders usually begin at infancy or early childhood and include autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and learning disorder.

*Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: Hallucinations and delusions fall in this category where patients can’t connect with the reality of life.

*Bipolar and related disorders: Patients are easily excited and do things in the extreme.

*Depressive disorders: Patients tend to either be too sad or too happy leaving them not able to work or focus on tasks. There is no gray area.

*Anxiety disorders: Panic attacks are very prevalent in this class as patients are overly worried and consumed with doom and gloom about the future.

Symptoms of mental health

There are certain triggers to mental health disorders that fall into three main categories – biological, life experiences, and family history. Biological factors involve genetic predisposition that can result in a decrease in brain function, sleep, and overall health. Life experiences like the death of a loved one, sexual abuse, and being in extremely stressful situations can contribute to mental illness. Lastly, there is a family history, which is passed down through the generations.

Outward signs of the illness can include an increase or decrease in sleeping and eating, pulling away from family and friends, giving away belongings, hearing voices, low energy, feeling hopeless and like you don’t matter. Knowing your risk factors helps to know how to treat it and keep it under control. It allows you either to prepare yourself when confronted with those situations, if possible and allows you to avoid them altogether. Symptoms vary from person-to-person.