Importance of Mental Health
In this article, I will explain the current understanding of mental health and the importance of good mental health in society.
Defining mental ill-health
The broad term ‘mental ill-health is often used as an umbrella term that includes both mental illness and mental health and is worth exploring individually first.
What is Mental illness?
A mental illness is a disorder diagnosed by a medical professional that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. There are different types of mental illness and they occur with varying degrees of severity. Examples include mood disorders (such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder), psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia), eating disorders and personality disorders. Mental health problems can affect many areas of students’ lives, reducing their quality of life, academic achievement, physical health, and satisfaction with the university experience, and negatively impacting relationships with friends and family members.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioural, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder. Mental health can affect all aspects of our lives.
Although the term mental health is in common use, many conditions that doctors recognise as psychological disorders have physical roots.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The WHO stress that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” The Peak of Mental Health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness. They also emphasise that preserving and restoring mental health is crucial on an individual basis, as well as throughout different communities and societies the world over.
Mental health can be monitored much like physical health and can fluctuate depending on circumstances. Strained mental health does not necessarily need intervention much like when we have the flu we might not need medical attention). The importance is the awareness of mental health difficulties that go beyond our ‘normal ups and downs’
Why Is Mental Health Important?
Research shows that 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year and 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide and at any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill-health. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions.
Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK and 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all. Unfortunately, suicide rates rise when mental health is neglected.
Mental health is important because it affects everything. It affects our ability to cope, adapt, and solve problems. It also affects our ability to be happy, productive, and well adjusted. Mental health is a topic that gets stigmatised so often in our society. If someone is having a mental health issue, they are less likely to get help because of that stigma and shame. There is nothing to be ashamed of because this how brains are wired.
Sometimes Mental illness can also get misunderstood by those who have never experienced it. Therefore, the individual experiencing mental illness often finds themselves having to advocate for their own needs and educate others about their issues.
There is a spectrum of how individual experience things, they may experience the extremes of high and low emotions and not be able to cope or can fall somewhere in between. Things unravel when left untreated, but that doesn’t mean that it becomes too late. Anything is possible when an individual remembers that they have a fighting chance.
Mental Health issues can affect people at all stages in life, from children to the elderly with 1 in 4 people experiencing poor mental health, the issue impacts individuals and families across the UK. Mental health is fast becoming one of the great issues of our time with growing numbers of people in the UK seeking help. Low-level mental health issues like stress and anxiety are becoming widespread, with celebrities and public figures sharing their experience of mental health the perception is the stigma associated with mental health issues is lessening.
However, because the stigma is very much still powerful only half of those affected receive treatment and untreated, mental illness can contribute to higher medical expenses, poorer performance during education and work, fewer employment opportunities and increased risk of suicide.
Get Rid of Stigma and Shame to Lead Better Lives
Stigma spreads when we do not talk about mental health and its importance. It’s important to talk about mental health, so others can also come forward about it. When individuals feel ashamed of themselves, it’s often because they perceive they are broken or not normal and this affects their ability to cope. Part of the process of healing is exploring and challenging those stigmas so that an individual start to realise that things can improve.
When it comes down to it for those who are experiencing mental illness it is important that they seek treatment. However, without awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding their condition, they may not feel comfortable reaching out to somebody for help. This enforces stigma and encourages more struggle and shame.
To challenge these stigmas, it is important to offer platforms where mental health and mental ill-health can be discussed and addressed, without the worry of personal or professional repercussions. Brunel has launched their Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Students in 2018 and Staff 2020 whose emphasis is on a whole university approach to Mental Health which includes promoting initiatives and activities that reduce stigma about mental and physical health. (see links provided below)
Mental health and wellbeing strategy v1.pdf (brunel.ac.uk)
Mental health and wellbeing strategy EMPLOYEES FINAL.pdf (brunel.ac.uk)
Mental Health Affects Everything
Mental health affects how individuals cope with life. Lack of treatment can lead to hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness, feeling guilty, anxiety, worry, fear, and loss of control. Relationships may suffer, performance in any situation such as Education or work may decline and withdrawal/isolation may happen. Individuals will also start to lose interest in things they once enjoyed and task completion and time management may fall apart. It may also become difficult for individuals to concentrate, or one may have reflection and focus on cleaning. Individual relationship with food may change and their racing thoughts can happen more often.
For someone with Severe Mental illness, life may become overwhelming and they may start to lose touch with reality and even hear voices. Self-harm, suicidal ideations may happen and destructive behaviours such as alcohol and or substance misuse may occur.
Overall, if mental health issues are not taken seriously things could fall apart rapidly. It’s important to learn and care about Mental Health issues because if we don’t, all the above could happen and generally people cannot function if their mental health is affected.
When an individual feel better, they do better
Individuals learn to cope again.
Individuals become healthy in all aspects.
Individuals find meaning in their day to day lives.
Individuals become more involved in the community.
Individuals are more productive in Education or at work.
Individuals can be more motivated.
As previously mentioned Mental health affects all aspects of our daily lives and how we interact in our world. Without good mental health, individuals are susceptible to not knowing their full worth and struggling with things that are beyond their control and therefore its important as a society to address individual mental health needs from a very young age speaking openly and ensuring the right support is sought.
If we can understand that valuing our health, physical and mental health is important and that not only are we good enough but extend compassion to all around us, then this can lead to overall higher standards in society.
To experience compassion and acceptance can make a difference to an individual with mental health issues of suffering in silence or seeking help.
No one should have to wait to feel better – individuals can feel better today simply by acknowledging their struggles as real and worth paying compassionate attention towards.
Individuals don’t need to solve every problem, but they can ask for help if things get too much. Then and only then do they gain some sense of control again over their lives.
Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Everyone deserves to have peace of mind. “If individuals only knew how worthwhile they are, they could take over the world”. It’s their own limiting thoughts that hold them back. The truth is that the mind can lie.
It does not make anyone less of a person for experiencing mental health issues. When individuals/society value mental health, they lead better lives. It doesn’t mean everything will be better overnight, but they can learn how to value themselves so they can improve over time. Mental health is as important as physical health. Society must end the stigma because mental health affects everything. When this is remembered, we can turn it all around. And it’s never too late to do exactly that.
If you or someone you know needs help and support please see below what we have at Brunel to sustain good health (mentally and physically).
Brunel Campus Security: 01895 255 786 from external lines and mobiles (available 24/7) Non-Emergency NHS Helpline: 111 (available 24/7)
Samaritans: 116 123 (open 24 hours)
Brunel Student Wellbeing Services
Mental wellbeing services (brunel.ac.uk)
Brunel Student Support and Welfare
Book an appointment for Student Support & Welfare (brunel.ac.uk)
Call for support via:
Accident and Emergency (A&E)
Police “welfare concern”
Self- Care workshops
Headspace, CALM Apps
How to Download and register to the Fika App
By: ASRIN UNDER