What is Mental Health?

Mental health may seem like a complex term since it is used a lot now in media and by others. Mental health is specifically focused on how you feel as an individual.

If you ask yourself, how are my moods (for the majority of the time)?

  • Do I feel content?
  • sad?
  • irritable?
  • bored?
  • joyful?

This is the biggest indicator of mental health.

Other tell tale signs are behavioural or physical.

  • Do you cry a lot?
  • Feel tired the majority of the time, even when you have had a good nights rest?
  • Do you feel energetic?
  • Do you feel like being active?

These are physical cues that can give one some insight in mental health. Behavioural cues may not always be conscious. Many people behave or react in a certain way and do not always realize they are doing so. Try to be conscious and aware of how you are operating on a day to day basis. This will give you some guidance as to how your mental health is doing.

Some examples are:

  • Sleeping a lot
  • Going out/being with friends a lot/ wanting to socialze constantly
  • Eating more/eating less
  • Disregarding your hobbies (lack of interest) /searching for more hobbies (curiosity)
  • Being more quiet/distant than usual
  •  Feeling more intimate, disclosing more about yourself to others

These are just generalizations of behavioural features but the overall picture should be seeing if you deviate from your normal ‘baseline’ behaviours. Such as, if you are normally interested in sports and like to live an active lifestyle, then it may be a red flag if you are staying in more and feeling more tired going to practice. However, if you normally like staying in and aren’t as social than it is not a red flag that you are staying in, that is your natural way of being.

This is why mental health may not have clear definitions since it is hard to define for people overall. It is subjective. It is independent on how you are doing in terms of your career, school or social relationships. It is a misconception to think that because one’s life is going well externally that one should be happy internally. Overall, mental health in concerned with an individuals thoughts and feelings on a regular basis.


When people’s minds are experiencing mental health difficulties, we say they have a mental illness or mental health issues. There are many kinds of mental illnesses. Some illnesses change how people think, some change people’s moods, and some change what people do. A mental illness can change the way you feel and how you get along with other people. Mental illness can be mild or more severe


What conditions are mentally healthy?

According to WHO (2011), mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.


The National Mental Health Association cites 10 characteristics of people who are mentally healthy.

  • They feel good about themselves.
  • They do not become overwhelmed by emotions, such as fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt, or anxiety.
  • They have lasting and satisfying personal relationships.
  • They feel comfortable with other people.
  • They can laugh at themselves and with others.
  • They have respect for themselves and for others even if there are differences.
  • They are able to accept life’s disappointments.
  • They can meet life’s demands and handle their problems when they arise.
  • They make their own decisions.
  • They shape their environment whenever possible and adjust to it when necessary.



What Causes Mental Illness?

Like physical illness, mental illness can be caused by a combination of our environment and our biology.

Our biology is everything in our body. Sometimes people inherit the same mental illness that their parents had. For some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar, people whose parents had a mental illness are more likely than the rest of the population to have the same illness. This does not mean that if one of your parents had schizophrenia, you will certainly have the illness. It means you are more at risk than someone else who does not have a family history of schizophrenia.

Early intervention and paying attention to risk factors are important. The environment includes everything around us in our daily lives.

Some examples are:

  •  The type of career we do
  • The culture we live in
  • The dominant social attitude of the time
  • How much money we earn
  • How much money our parents earn
  • How much stress are we (or our family) exposed to
  •  Experiences of loss, abuse, neglect or trauma.


With mental illness, the structure of our brain can change and the chemicals within our brain  can change. (Also there may be an already predisposed chemical imbalance and/or structural brain imbalance) How the different parts of our brain work with each other can
also change.

Most people believe mental health is affected by both our environment and our biology. Something may happen in your environment that triggers a change in how your brain works. Or a change in your brain’s chemicals may make you see your environment differently.