People tend to view mental health from the perspective of an illness – either you have a mental health disorder, or you are mentally healthy. In fact, good mental health is a positive state that every person can work towards.
The World Health Organization defines good mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises 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.”
Here are some facts about mental health that might challenge your perceptions.
Mental health disorders are experienced by a large and diverse group of Australians.
The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing surveyed the mental health of the Australian population. Their study showed that 45.5% of Australians had experienced a mental disorder at one point in their lives, and 20% had experienced a disorder in the last 12 months – almost 3.2 million Australians. Regardless of gender, age or culture, good mental health is vital.
Mental health is not just about disorders.
While it is important to address mental health conditions, everyone should prioritise their mental health – even if they are never diagnosed with a disorder. Feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, tension, or simply feeling down are normal emotions, but when they persist they can negatively affect mental health. There are many steps you can take on your own to work on your mental health, but if these feelings are disrupting your daily life it’s important to seek outside help.
You can improve your mental health.
There are a number of ways you can work towards positive mental health – although remember that it is normal and ok to need outside help. Some ideas to help you stay mentally healthy are:
- Focus on good nutrition and exercise
- Get good, regular sleep
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and drug use
- Talk about your feelings (or express them in a way that is natural to you)
- Set realistic goals
- Practice relaxation
- Try new things and challenge yourself
- Spend time with friends and family
Good mental health is a positive pursuit.
There is often a social stigma around people with mental health disorders, which can prevent people from seeking help. Some people don’t identify with needing to improve their mental health if they don’t have a “condition”. The truth is, mental health is about functioning well in all areas of life, having significant social connections, good self-esteem and being able to deal with change.
If you have any concerns about your mental health, whether you identify with having a “condition” or whether you could just use some support, your GP is a great place to start looking for information. Think positively – improving your mental health is about helping you to live your best life, and it’s worth pursuing.