The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to mental health as ‘a state of well-being in which the 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 own community.’ Achieving a state of total health and wellness is not just about being physically fit, and disease free, but also being mentally sound. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Sometimes life can get so overwhelming and frustrating and tough. This awareness month serves as a reminder to prioritize not only physical health but also mental health.
There has been a rise in mental health disorders with some fascinating studies outlining that young people, in particular, have indicated a significant decrease in levels of happiness. The decline in mental health in particular among young people especially has notably increased with the ‘age of technology’ social media, and other societal changes which are poorly impacting the general psyche and sense of well-being. While many elements of modern life are unfortunate consequences of industrialization and might seem a little overwhelming to confront, there are still ways for us to maintain stability and balance amid all this chaos.
I believe that mental health issues are among some of the most widespread illnesses of our time. With 1 in 3 adults suffering from some form of mental health issue, not only are they widespread, but they are also generally quite a lot more challenging to identify and control than many might think. This is because there are so many factors which contribute to their development. If we consider the different backgrounds, life experiences, triggers, and emotional stability of every individual, it makes sense that we all perceive situations and think about our circumstances differently. This means that a treatment or technique that works for one person might not work in the same way for another, and vice versa. For this reason, self-awareness and the development of an individual’s ‘inner’ emotional radar are key before an individual can hope to make any progress against their triggers. The trouble is, we’re not taught how to recognize these issues for what they are. From a young age we’re taught to recognize and talk about the signs and symptoms of a headache, or malaria, and other common physical illnesses, but it’s incredibly unusual to get the same insights and training in understanding the development of mental health issues which has contributed to the rise in mental health conditions.
The impact of poor mental health is becoming increasingly apparent as our society is slowly but surely waking up to the consequences of ignoring it. More than 60 million Nigerians have a mental health disorder and majority of these people are not being treated, while some are not even aware of it. Nigeria now tops the list as the most depressed country in Africa. Nigeria is also the fifth leading country with the most suicide deaths worldwide! The consequences of these statistics become shocking as we begin considering the impact poor mental health has on various areas of life, and the ripple effect of untreated mental health issues is more significant than we can imagine. Almost every week, there are reports of different people committing suicide; and this is largely due to emotional imbalances and failure to recognize the early signs.
In addition, It’s not just our emotional landscape that is affected by mental health issues. The link between mind and body has been at the center of an increasing amount of studies in recent years, and the facts are very telling. One such study found that those with chronic anxiety and depression are 67% more likely to die from heart attack and other cardiovascular complications. They are also 50% more likely to develop cancer. It has also been found that schizophrenia is associated with double the risk of death from heart disease, and three times that of the risk of a respiratory condition.
The study also shows that early mortality is three times higher in those suffering from a mental health disorder than that of the general population. So you see why it is important to maintain a healthy state of mind, or at least be able to recognize when something is off, and then take the bold step to take action and seek treatment or visit a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are many misconceptions and stigmas surrounding mental health issues, and this makes people ignore the early signs of mental illness. Understanding triggers, root causes, and emotional imbalances can help people recognize the early signs of distress before they become too severe. The key is to be consciously aware of the quality of your mental health and have the knowledge and ability to treat it. There is no need to be embarrassed about wanting to get better. Realize that you owe it to yourself and loved ones to take charge of your total well being, and that includes keeping a positive mental health.
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