Facts & Myths

What is mental health?

Being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean that you don’t have a mental health problem.

If you’re in good mental health, you can:

  • make the most of your potential
  • cope with life
  • play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends.

Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘wellbeing’ and it’s just as important as good physical health.

Mental health is everyone’s business. We all have times when we feel down or stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass. But sometimes they develop into a more serious problem and that could happen to any one of us.

Everyone is different. You may bounce back from a setback while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time.

Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as you move through different stages of your life.

There’s a stigma attached to mental health problems. This means that people feel uncomfortable about them and don’t talk about them much. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know and say how you’re feeling.

 

What are mental health problems?

Mental health problems are usually defined and classified to enable professionals to refer people for appropriate care and treatment. But some diagnoses are controversial and there is much concern in the mental health field that people are too often treated according to or described by their label. This can have a profound effect on their quality of life. Nevertheless, diagnoses remain the most usual way of dividing and classifying symptoms into groups.

Most mental health symptoms have traditionally been divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms. ‘Neurotic’ covers those symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Conditions formerly referred to as ‘neuroses’ are now more frequently called ‘common mental health problems.’

Less common are ‘psychotic’ symptoms, which interfere with a person’s perception of reality, and may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else can. Mental health problems affect the way you think, feel and behave. They are problems that can be diagnosed by a doctor, not personal weaknesses.

 

Mental health problems are very common

As found by the APMS (2014), 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.

Anxiety and depression are the most common problems, with around 1 in 10 people affected at any one time.

How do mental health problems affect people?

Anxiety and depression can be severe and long-lasting and have a big impact on people’s ability to get on with life.

Between one and two in every 100 people experience a severe mental illness, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, and have periods when they lose touch with reality. People affected may hear voices, see things no one else sees, hold unusual or irrational beliefs, feel unrealistically powerful, or read particular meanings into everyday events.

Although certain symptoms are common in specific mental health problems, no two people behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell.

Many people who live with a mental health problem or are developing one try to keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of other people’s reactions. And many people feel troubled without having a diagnosed, or diagnosable, mental health problem - although that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling to cope with daily life.

(Source: Mental Health Foundation)

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