Your mental health, Your Health

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

Mental health which is more than absence of mental disorder is a state of psychological well being and an integral part of general health. The World Health Organization defines mental health 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.  Poor mental health is associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, risks of violence, physical ill-health and human rights violations.
Degeneration or compromise in a person’s mental health can be referred to as mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association's standard reference for psychiatry includes over 450 different definitions of mental disorders. These mental disorders abound with varied presentations and challenges. Generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thought patterns, perceptions, behaviours and relationships with others, mental disorders may affect sleep, moods and intellectual as well as developmental abilities. Examples of mental disorders include depression, bipolar disorders, dementia, personality disorders, addictive behaviours, schizophrenia and intellectual disorders which include autism.
A mental disorder does not depict the end of life. Some of these mental disorders can be prevented as well as managed. Treatments available may help patients to lead productive lives and be integrated back into the society. Depending on the mental disorder, the treatment may differ. Medications which may help improve mental state include anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs and mood-stabilizing medications. Psychotherapy (discussing the disorder and related issues with a mental health professional) and care offered by family and friends could also go a long way to help patients recuperate faster.
Several factors are determinants to the mental status of an individual. These factors may go beyond an individual’s ability to manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviours unto other external factors such as social, economic, cultural, environmental and political factors. Stress, nutrition, genetics and prenatal infections may also be contributory factors to mental disorders.


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