What is mental health?

Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave. In Kiswahili it means “Afya ya akili.” It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. 

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected. 

There are factors that contribute to mental health problems, and they include:

  • Biological factors, such as genetics, infections, prenatal damage, brain defects/injuries, substance use, sexuality and exposure to toxins, 
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, growing up in a chaotic environment, exposed to chronic discrimination, violence, stigma, poverty, employment.
  • Family history of mental health problems: Having a family member with a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, addictions, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder, dementia, ADHD, Autism increases your risk. 

Warning Signs

Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviours can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities I.e cancelling plans, staying in bed, giving up
  • Having low or no energy always tired
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains i.e Headaches, stomachaches, muscle pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Addiction i.e , gambling, sex, internet, Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family, friends and coworkers, 
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of or harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks such as taking shower, brushing teeth 

Mental Health and Wellness

Being mentally well means that your mind is in order and functioning in your best interest. 

Positive mental health allows people to:

  • Realize their full potential
  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Work productively
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities
  • Have self-confidence and high self-esteem. 

Ways to maintain positive mental health include:

  • Getting professional help if you need it I.e., go for counselling, see a psychiatrist
  • Connecting with others may help protect you against the harms of stress. i.e., connect with family members, do charity works, volunteer at a local organization. 
  • Staying positive: try to have a positive outlook.
  • Getting physically active lifts your mood and provide added energy.
  • Helping others
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills which are methods you use to deal with stressful situations. 
  • Practice meditation, yoga. 

Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

**Recognize when you need help. 

Anxiety Disorders

People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread. Anxiety disorders can include obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and phobias.

Behavioural Disorders

Behavioural disorders involve a pattern of disruptive behaviours in children that last for at least 6 months and cause problems in school, at home and in social situations. Examples of behavioural disorders include Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder, and Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (ODD).

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors involving weight and food. Eating disorders can include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Mental health & substance abuse disorders

Mental health problems and substance abuse disorders sometimes occur together.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders involve persistent feelings of sadness or periods of feeling overly happy, or fluctuating between extreme happiness and extreme sadness. Mood disorders can include depression, bipolar disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and self-harm.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorders

If you have OCD, you have repeated, upsetting thoughts called obsessions. You do the same thing over and over again to try to make the thoughts go away. Those repeated actions are called compulsions.

Personality Disorders

People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and may cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. Personality disorders can include antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Psychotic Disorders

People with psychotic disorders experience a range of symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions. An example of a psychotic disorder is schizophrenia.

Suicidal Disorders

Suicide causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide.

Trauma and stress related disorders

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, rape, physical abuse or a bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over.

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