What is mental health?
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder.
Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health.
However, this link also works in the other direction. Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions.
Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.
Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.
Although the term mental health is in common use, many conditions that doctors recognize as psychological disorders have physical roots.
In this article, we explain what people mean by mental health and mental illness. We also describe the most common types of mental disorders, including their early signs and how to treat them.
The WHO stress that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness.
They also emphasize that preserving and restoring mental health is crucial on an individual basis, as well as throughout different communities and societies the world over.
Early Warning Signs
Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
Mental Health and Wellness
Positive mental health allows people to:
- Realize their full potential
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities
Ways to maintain positive mental health include:
- Getting professional help if you need it
- Connecting with others
- Staying positive
- Getting physically active
- Helping others
- Getting enough sleep
- Developing coping skills
Mental Health Myths and Facts
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Can you tell the difference between a mental health myth and fact? Learn the truth about the most common mental health myths.
Mental Health Problems Affect Everyone
Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.
Fact: Mental health problems are actually very common. In 2014, about:
- One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
- One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
- One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
Myth: Children don’t experience mental health problems.
Fact: Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns. These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors.
Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.
Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.