It is truly up to us to determine what mental health means to us individually.
MentalHealth.gov defines mental health as, “…our emotional, psychological, and social well-being”. Now, while this is great as a broad definition, it is truly up to us to determine what this phrase means to us individually. Mental health is influenced by many, many factors in our lives, and no one’s journey through it is the same.
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.Henry David Thoreau
Although mental health is certainly a unique experience for everyone, there are common factors that play a role in the process.
Biological factors such as genetic predisposition and brain chemistry (for example, naturally low levels of serotonin) can contribute to the likelihood that a person will develop a mental health condition in their life. Medication is often a useful treatment for people with mental health conditions primarily caused by biological factors.
Life experiences such as traumatic events or abuse are some of the most common signs that a person will develop a mental health condition. PTSD is another condition often diagnosed in people who have experienced trauma and abuse in their lifetime.
Family history of mental health problems is the one biggest indicator of a person’s likelihood to develop a mental health condition. If a person has a family member closely related to them (for example, a parent, grandparent, or sibling) who has a mental health problem, they are much more likely to have it as well.
Although depression and anxiety are mental health problems, this field of health should not be cast in a negative light. Just like physical health, for the most part, our mental health is an extremely stable part of us that contributes to our everyday life. When we are happy, or sad, or excited, stressed, angry, or confused, our mental health is the puppeteer pulling the strings behind the scenes to make us feel that way. And feeling all of these emotions is not just human, but actually good for you. Knowing what sadness and frustration feel like means that we develop better skills to cope with them in the future. Take this scenario for example:
You are a high school student and get assigned a complicated project that is due in two days, and become really stressed because you have other homework and commitments on top of it. Even though you feel extraordinarily frustrated while completing the project, you get it done and now have the tools to manage similar tasks in the future, which will be especially useful once you get to college and beyond.
As much as stress and other negative emotions might seem like monsters to us, they really do benefit us in the sense that once we deal with a stressful situation once, we will be able to easily manage it in the future.
Overall, when we talk about Mental Health, it is important to remember:
- Everyone’s experience is different. Making generalizations about how people respond to different scenarios can often hurt more than help.
- Mental Health is more than just a term used to describe conditions such as depression and anxiety. There are many things that we can do to make a positive impact on our mental health!
- Your emotions are there for a reason. No matter how difficult or how stressful a situation may seem, your frustration and anger only serve to help you work better in the future.