The month of May is observed as Mental Health Awareness month, during which it is urged that more attention be paid to mental well-being and how detrimental it is to our body’s overall health. Historically, the conversation around behavioral health topics has been limited and overlooked; but recently a larger lens has been focused on the topic, allowing for a long overdue lesson about how behavioral health issues, disorders, illnesses, and simple stress can negatively impact you. Mental illnesses are a wide range of conditions that refer to a disturbance in one’s behavior, emotional arousal & regulation, and cognition. These illnesses often disrupt important functional processes and are accompanied by feelings of distress. In 2019 1 in every 8 people (970 million) globally suffered from a mental disorder, and since then the number has increased significantly partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s progression. Despite the astronomical value of those suffering from behavioral health problems, the number of those with access to healthcare resources falls much too short.
A greater emphasis should be placed on addressing the needs of those suffering from mental illnesses along with methods of prevention if they’re available. Because the status of an individual’s mental health affects multiple aspects of their life, the resources that should be made available to those suffering should exist in a variety of spaces. Providing accommodations not only at home but at work and school would greatly benefit individuals struggling with their mental health. Identifying and becoming familiar with all of the risk and protective factors provides a solid foundation from which we can begin to approach and tackle the issues. Various mental health conditions are known to arise from genetic predispositions for certain diseases, alcohol & drug abuse, stressful life events, homelessness & unemployment, discrimination & inequality, chronic illnesses, brain damage resulting from serious injuries, a childhood history of abuse or neglect, and other factors. While these are known to be main contributors, they are not the only factors, and to that note there is not one singular definitive way to prevent the onset and development of a mental health disorder. However, it is possible to catch onset early by paying attention to warning signs and knowing when to seek help.
Protective factors are those that increase the likelihood of being able to reduce the risk factor’s impact. These may include healthy diet, regular exercise, having a reliable support system, having secure attachment as a child, emotional regulation, healthy relationships, participation in team-based or community activities, having good coping skills, and more. Because mental health conditions are all-encompassing, it is important that the protective factors are exercised to provide a buffer against the array of complications that can arise from the many mental health illnesses. While some mental health disorders call for specific methods of treatment, there are a few general actions that can be taken toward bettering your mental health. These include making sure you’re getting a sufficient amount of sleep, maintaining a healthy diet catered to your specific health needs, regularly being physically active, and paying attention to risk factors when they become apparent. Treatment plans for mental health disorders can become more complicated and extensive the longer you wait, so visiting your physician regularly and monitoring your symptoms can help you better understand the best ways to take care of yourself.
“Mental Disorders.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental disorders#:~:text=A%20mental%20disorder%20is%20characterized,different%20types%20of%20mental%20di sorders. Accessed 12 May 2023.
“Mental Health.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health strengthening-our-response. Accessed 12 May 2023.
“Mental Illness.” Mayo Clinic, 13 Dec. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968.
Davo Productions, http://www.davoproductions.com. “Risk and Protective Factors.” The American Mental Wellness Association " Risk and Protective Factors, www.americanmentalwellness.org/prevention/risk-and-protective-factors/. Accessed 12 May 2023.