We usually interpret the term ‘healthy’ as a form of physical fitness. Most of us presume that the absence of disease means that we are completely healthy, but that is absolutely not true.
Health, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” If we take these words into consideration, it is doubtful if any one of us can ever be truly considered healthy.
Physical and social fitness is extremely important, but mental health stands out in this list. It is a pivotal part of human life. After all, if our mind is not healthy, how can we function properly? How can we lead a healthy life? And for that matter, how can we ensure physical and social fitness?
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
However, when we look at the statistics, it shows us that mental health is severely lacking in today’s world. According to the 2018 report of Our World in Data, about 970 million people worldwide have a mental health or substance abuse disorder; 284 million people suffer from anxiety, 264 million people from depression, 46 million people from bipolar disorder, 20 million people from schizophrenia, and 16 million people from eating disorders. In addition, every year, around 3 million people die due to substance abuse. Every 40 seconds, a person commits suicide.
These numbers are staggering, but that was three years ago. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened mental health issues, especially among children. Isolation, unemployment, online classes for students and lack of interaction are major factors that bring about mental illnesses.
Suicide rates amongst teenagers have risen drastically, especially since schools are closed. Students are becoming increasingly isolated and closed-off, with limitations set on meetings and gatherings. This is extremely concerning especially considering that more than 50% of mental illnesses start at the age of 14.
Now, since we have discussed the statistics related to mental issues, you might be interested to know why mental health is so important.
Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can seriously hinder our ability to work as it plagues us with self-doubt and is accompanied by low energy and numbness. It can leave us barely able to function, and can lead to low grades and poor work. Besides, it can lead to strained relations with family and friends, as it can make us likely to be irritable and angry at others.
Meanwhile, positive mental health can help us reach our full potential and contribute to the community to the best of our ability. It helps us forge and maintain strong and everlasting bonds with our family and friends. It enables us to cope with stress and emerge stronger out of any situation.
But how exactly can we achieve this? How do we function as completely healthy individuals in society?
It is actually quite simple.
Exercise is a huge part of staying mentally fit as it has anti-depressive effects. While we are engaged in physical activity, a chemical called endorphin is produced in our brain. Endorphin is believed to help relieve pain, reduce stress, strengthen our immune system and slow down aging. Besides boosting our mood, exercise can also help us stay in shape, and hence is a great way to main both physical and mental health.
Furthermore, a proper balanced diet can have a positive effect on our mental health. Our brain uses the food we intake to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters which help in regulating our sleep, behavior and mood. Besides, deficiency of vitamins can sometimes cause mood swings, anxiety and depression.
In addition, getting enough sleep is extremely important to maintain good mental health. The recommended hours of sleep vary with age; 9 to 12 hours for six to twelve years old, 8 to 10 hours for thirteen to eighteen years old, and 7 or more hours for adults.
There are several stigmas surrounding the topic of mental health, but it is important to know that no matter what problems you face, it is not because of personal weakness and it is not in your head. It is a result of a variety of factors – genetics, life experiences, biological factors and family history of mental illnesses.
Maintaining good mental health should be one of our top priorities. It is not healthy to ignore your mental health, especially if you suspect something is wrong. Remember, it is okay not to be okay.
“If you can take care of your mind, you take care of the world.” Arianna Huffington