What is mental health?
Everyone has mental health. It involves our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and it affects how we think, feel, and act.
It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
How common are mental health problems?
One in four adults in the UK are likely to have a mental health problem at some stage in their lifetime, experts believe.
The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, according to the mental health charity Mind.
In Europe, it is estimated that 83 million people experience a mental health condition every year.
According to statistics from the Royal College of Psychiatrists:
- Anxiety – which involves feelings of unease, worry and fear – will affect 5% of the population at any one time
- Bipolar disorder – which causes people to have manic and depressive episodes – will affect one in every 100 people
- About 20% of people will become depressed at some point in their lives
- One in every 150 15-year-old girls will get anorexia, and one in every 1,000 15-year-old boys
- Schizophrenia – which can cause people to have hallucinations, delusions and paranoia – affects about one person in 100 people.
How do we define mental health?
Mental health problems are defined and classified to help experts refer people for the right care and treatment. The symptoms are grouped in two broad categories – neurotic and psychotic.
Neurotic conditions are extreme forms of “normal” emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Psychotic symptoms affect around one in 100 and these interfere with a person’s perception of reality, impairing their thoughts and judgments. Conditions include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
What can cause mental health problems?
The exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known but a combination of physical, psychological and environmental factors are thought to play a role.
Many mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder can run in families, which suggests a genetic link.
Experts believe many mental illnesses are linked to abnormalities in several genes that predispose people to problems, but don’t on their own directly cause them. So a person can inherit a susceptibility to a condition but may not go on to develop it.
Difficult life events can then trigger a mental illness in a person who is susceptible.
According to the charity Mind the following factors could potentially trigger a period of poor mental health:
- childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect
- social isolation or loneliness
- experiencing discrimination and stigma
- the death of someone close to you
- severe or long-term stress
- unemployment or losing your job
- poverty or debt
- homelessness or poor housing
What are the most common disorders?