“Mental Health” is a broad term that is used to describe a wide range of different psychological conditions. However, the term is also about much more than mental illness. It’s also about how you feel – whether you’re happy or sad, feeling good about who you are, and how you manage the highs and lows that come with life.
Because mental illness is so common and widespread (with over 200 classified forms), Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, says it’s important to know the warning signs that are associated with mental illness. However, those warning signs may differ depending on the age of the individual. For example, younger children may experience changes in school performance (i.e. poor grades), changes in their sleeping and/or eating habits, have frequent temper tantrums, excessive worry, anxiety, hyperactivity, aggression, and even hyperactivity. In older children and teenagers there may be defiance of authority, frequent outbursts of anger, a prolonged negative mood, an inability to cope with problems and daily activities, as well as substance use. Young adults and adults may have confused thoughts, prolonged depression, irritability, social withdrawal, hallucinations, delusions, unexplained physical ailments, and suicidal thoughts.
Whether you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms/warning signs or not, it’s never a bad idea to check in on your own mental health, as this is a good way to not only support it, but make improvements if necessary. For example, ask yourself the following:
• Am I optimistic about my future?
• Do I feel good about myself?
• Do I enjoy life?
• Do I get along with others/have good social interactions?
• Do I have a good support system around me?
• Am I reaching my full potential?
• Do I feel confident?
If your answer is “yes” to the majority of these questions, then these are signs of good mental health. However, if your answer is “no”, it wouldn’t hurt to discuss how you’re feeling with someone you trust – whether it’s a friend, family member, or a physician. This is also why, from May 7th, to 13th, the Canadian Mental Health Association is asking individuals to #GetLoud about mental health and talk about what it means to them. Having this discussion is also a good way to reduce the stigma that is so often associated with mental illness. Since Mental Health Week first began in 1951, 57% of Canadians say that they believe the stigma associated with mental illness have been reduced, while 70% say they believe the attitude towards mental health issues has changed for the better compared to 5 years ago.
We all have good and bad mental health days, but it’s important to keep the good days coming. In order to do this, some strategies that Dr. Ali Ghahary and the Canadian Mental Health Association recommend trying include connecting with friends and family (i.e. going for coffee, grabbing lunch, or even sending them an e-mail), as well as staying active (physical activity has been show to improve mental health.)