What are the Different Types of Mental Health?
Every year, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue. Recent events, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in economic pressure, can all affect mental health. There are now more resources and facilities than ever to help those suffering from any mental health issues, however there is still more that can be done.
In this article we will explain what mental health is, including the different types, the causes and the associated challenges faced by those who are suffering. It is important to be aware of mental health and have an understanding around it because so many of us will be affected by it in our lifetime.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to a state of well being and is important throughout life. Our mental health can fluctuate between being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and is very different for everyone. For example, what appears to be ‘good’ mental health for one person, is completely different for another.
When we say ‘good’ mental health, we are referring to a state of well being in which an individual realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and can make a contribution to their community. This includes psychological well being, emotional well being and social well being as it can affect how we think, feel and act.
It is important to understand how people’s experiences of mental health differ. For example, someone who has been diagnosed with clinical depression (a severe form of depression) may have learnt to manage their symptoms as best they can and will continue to live a fulfilled life, whilst still being clinically depressed. In another case, someone without a mental health diagnosis may struggle everyday with their mood, symptoms and overall mental health.
The above example shows how different everyone’s experiences with mental health can be. However, you should note that people’s mental health isn’t a fixed state. This means that if you receive a diagnosis of a mental health issue, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are stuck with that diagnosis for life. Equally, you may get to the age of 70 before being diagnosed with a mental health problem.
As mentioned, the state of our mental health changes over time. These changes can take place over years and months, but you can also notice changes in your mental health overnight. Therefore, over the course of your life, you will experience changes in your own mental health and may notice changes in your mood and how you think and behave.
Having an awareness of mental health, what it is, the different types and how it changes, can help you to support others and support yourself.
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There are various internal and external factors that can contribute to our mental health, such as biological factors, life experiences and family history. With that being said, it is important to point out that people with a mental health diagnosis, such as depression, can also be ‘mentally healthy’. This means they can make the most of their potential, cope with everyday life, engage with their family, workplace and community.
As well as fluctuating between a positive state of mental health or struggling, mental health changes as we move through different stages in our lives. We all experience times when we feel down, stressed or frightened and most of the time these feelings will pass. However, sometimes they won’t budge and can develop into a more serious problem.
These changes can happen overnight, or take longer and change over the course of months and years. Everyone is different and will experience their mental health differently, however there are some tried and tested ways that you can support yourself, or someone else who is struggling.
Everyone’s experiences of mental health will be different as every person is different. Another factor that affects our experiences with mental health depends on which type of mental health issue we are suffering from.
What are the Different Types of Mental Health?
Mental health encompasses lots of different issues and severities. Over our lifetime, it is likely we will experience one or more types of mental health issues and of different severities. Some mental health issues are more common than others, and some are more widely recognised. For example, depression affected almost one in five adults in the UK in 2020, compared to schizophrenia which only affects around one in 100 people in any given year.
The most common mental health issues include:
- Anxiety disorders.
- Behavioural and emotional disorders.
- Bipolar affective disorder.
- Dissociation and dissociative disorders.
- Eating disorders.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
As you can see, there are many different types of mental health, some are more common than others but all are equally important. Contributing factors, such as stress, can worsen a person’s mental health issue. Although the relationship between stress and mental illness is complex, they are known to increase the chances of the other. For example, someone who is under a lot of stress at work may be at an increased risk of suffering from a mental health issue.
Managers or employers in sectors and jobs that are likely to cause additional stress to their employees, such as healthcare workers, police, paramedics or firefighters, should be aware of the impact that the job can have on their employee’s mental health. They should put in place policies and procedures to support their employees and encourage awareness of mental health in the workplace.
Mental health also affects people of all ages. Statistics show that young people, particularly young women aged 16-24, are affected by mental health issues more than any other age group. This can be explained by a number of factors, one of which being big changes happening in their lives, such as moving to university.
Some people can manage their mental health issues with medication, counselling or both, and can continue with their day-to-day life. For others, it takes longer and is harder for them to continue their daily lives. Factors that affect how someone manages their mental health include whether they have access to different resources and also what is causing, or caused, their mental health problem.
Causes of Mental Health Problems
There are many different causes of mental health issues and numerous factors involved that affect the severity. Knowing these causes and the factors affecting someone’s mental health can help them, and others, to manage it.
Some common causes of mental health issues are:
- Childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect.
- Social isolation or loneliness.
- Experiencing discrimination and stigma, including racism.
- Social disadvantage, such as poverty or debt.
- Bereavement (losing someone close to you).
- Severe or long-term stress.
- Having a long-term physical health condition.
- Unemployment or losing your job.
- Homelessness or poor housing.
- Being a long-term carer for someone.
- Drug and alcohol misuse.
- Domestic violence, bullying or other abuse as an adult.
- Significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat, being involved in a serious incident or being the victim of a violent crime.
- Physical causes, for example a head injury or a neurological condition.
Although lifestyle factors, including work, diet and lack of sleep can all affect mental health, if someone is experiencing a mental health issue there are usually other factors involved as well.
One question about mental health that is still unanswered is whether mental health issues ‘run in the family’. Although some research suggests you are more likely to develop schizophrenia if you have a parent who has it, there is no evidence of whether this is due to genetics or the environment we grow up in.
Furthermore, despite some mental health issues being influenced by our genes, there is no evidence that specific genes definitely cause mental health problems. In the same way, many people that experience mental health issues do not have any relatives with the same, or any, mental health problems.
The brain is very complicated and despite research suggesting a link between mental health and brain chemicals (specifically dopamine and serotonin), no-one knows why. The main connection between the brain and mental health is through medication. Some medicines, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by altering the chemicals in the brain and can help people suffering with their mental health.
There is also an argument that it is reassuring to think that we can’t help our mental health issues because they are caused by factors out of our control. This is very often the case, but it can be misinterpreted as suggesting mental health is a negative thing and that there is something ‘wrong’ with people who are suffering from a mental health problem, which we know is not the case.
If you are suffering from a mental health issue, you have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It is okay to not be okay, and by speaking out about it you can raise awareness and educate others. This also helps those who might be suffering and aren’t brave enough to speak out themselves.
If you are aware of the symptoms that someone struggling with their mental health might experience, you can play a part in supporting them. Some common symptoms of mental health issues include:
- Feeling sad or down.
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
- Excessive fears, worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations.
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress.
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people.
- Problems with alcohol or drug use.
- Major changes in eating habits.
- Changes in sex drive.
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence.
- Suicidal thinking.
As mentioned above, one of the symptoms of mental health issues is suicidal thinking. This can be a tough topic to talk about as people sometimes fear that if they bring up suicide to someone who is struggling, they are going to encourage it or put ideas in their head, which is not the case.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling and is having suicidal thoughts and you don’t know how to approach the subject, take a look at our article on How to Talk to Someone Who is Suicidal. It is also important to be aware of the myths and stigma surrounding mental health issues. We can all play a part in educating ourselves so we are better able to raise awareness and stop stereotypes and discrimination surrounding mental health from continuing.
What Challenges Do Individuals Suffering from Mental Health Issues Face?
Those experiencing mental health issues may face challenges everyday. No matter whether an individual has a diagnosis or not, even getting out of bed in the morning may seem impossible.
Other challenges faced by individuals with mental health issues include:
- Difficulties with social interaction.
- Struggling to make yourself a priority.
- Difficulty reaching out.
- Finding it hard to identify moods and feelings.
- Struggling to maintain good routines.
- Difficulty living up to expectations.
- Facing unknown hurdles.
- Difficulty planning and navigating the world.
Being aware of the challenges faced by individuals experiencing mental health issues may make it easier for us to understand when we, or someone we care about, is struggling.
Possible Solutions to Mental Health Challenges
It can take time for someone’s mental health to improve, and some may need a variety of support, but there are ways that you can make a difference.
Ways you can help others include:
- Reassuring them that you are there to listen and support them in whatever way they need.
- Expressing concerns and starting the conversation about their mental health.
- Continuing to act as you usually do together, behaving differently may make the person feel isolated and could cause them to push you away.
- Listening to them, this is so important as the person may have never had someone just sit and listen to them before.
- Being patient, don’t push someone into talking or accessing help if they are not ready yet. Let them do it in their own time.
- Respect their wishes if they don’t want help or support. If possible, explore the reasons why with them.
- Offer practical help, small acts such as doing their shopping with them or attending an appointment with them can reassure the individual.
- Look after yourself as it can be hard to hear someone you care about in distress. Take the time to relax and check in with your own mental health.
The most important, and possibly the easiest thing you can do, is have an awareness of mental health. You never know when you, or someone you care about, may need help. Understanding the different symptoms to look out for and types of mental health can make a huge difference.
It is important to have an awareness of mental health including the different types, symptoms and challenges faced by those with a mental health issue. Awareness can help you to support yourself and those around you. It can also help to raise overall awareness so that others can learn and provide support too.