What is Mental Health?
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Being mentally healthy means that we feel good about ourselves, make and keep positive relationships with others and can feel and manage a full range of emotions. Good mental health allows us to cope with life’s ups and downs, feel in control of our lives and ask for help from others when we need support.
Only medical professionals should make a formal diagnosis of a mental health condition.
Mental health is a broad issue and includes a wide range of disorders. Therefore, a large spectrum of symptoms is possible. Note that behavioural changes do not necessarily point to mental health problems – they may be temporary and caused by a negative experience or distressing life event. However, persistent disruptive or withdrawn behaviour can indicate an underlying problem.
Warning signs may include:
- Severe behaviour problems
- Persistent or severe anxiety
- Feelings of sadness that dominate and interfere with the pupil’s life
- Persistent and severe inattentiveness or impulsiveness
- Worries about weight that dominate the pupil’s life
- Unusual eating patterns
- Substance misuse
- Self-harm (for example, overdosing, hitting or cutting)
The five ways to Wellbeing
Feeling close to and valued by other people is a fundamental human need. Social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and acting as a buffer against mental ill health. Try putting five minutes aside to find out how someone really is. Ask someone how their weekend was and listen when they tell you.
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and promoting wellbeing. Walking, for example, can encourage social interactions as well as providing a form of exercise.
Being aware of what is taking place in the present enhances your wellbeing. Heightened awareness enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your values and motivations. You could take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting. Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day.
Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. The practice of setting goals has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing. You could try reading a book or researching something you’ve always wondered about.
Participation in social and community life has attracted attention in the field of wellbeing research. Those who show a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Research has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over 6 weeks is associated with an increase in wellbeing.