What is mental health?

by Natasha Chinyemba

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also 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.

Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse

If someone is suffering from any mental health problems, there are some early signs which family or friends can notice as different from the normal self of any individuals.

Let’s start with some normal signs or who we expect someone to live or behave;

  • Realize one’s full potential at school, work etc
  • Cope with the stresses of life.
  • Work productively eg managing to carry out tasks and completing them.
  • Make meaningful contributions to their communities.
  • Taking care of the physical, emotional and spiritual health eg eating, bathing, praying, exercising, showing and receiving love etc

Some early warning signs that can be a red flag, indicating that something is wrong;

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • 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 harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

After noticing such changes, we encourage such individuals to look for help or help them to go to any health facility you know of. it is important to seek help so that thy can be treated so that they can regain their normal mental health.

Some advantages of getting help when necessary

  • Quick recovery
  • Continuing in one’s normal life
  • Prevent further similar problems

Some disadvantages of not getting help when necessary;

  • The problem may worsen to some conditions which cannot be reversed.
  • Someone can hurt themselves or others around
  • One can loss their job, family and friends
  • One can engage into crime


Level 1: Individual level

Ways to improves one’s mental health

While taking care of your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional health on your own. Making these changes will pay off in all aspects of your life. It can boost your mood, build resilience, and add to your overall enjoyment of life.

  • Stay positive with yourself and always be grateful of your potential and any achievements. 

Research shows that how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. When we perceive our self and our life negatively, we can end up viewing experiences in a way that confirms that notion. Instead, practice using words that promote feelings of self-worth and personal power. For example, instead of saying, “I’m such a loser. I won’t get the job because I tanked in the interview,” try, “I didn’t do as well in the interview as I would have liked, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to get the job.”

  • One thing at a time

Be mindful of the present moment to let go of negative or difficult emotions from past experiences that weigh one down. Be awareness of daily routine activities, like bathing, eating, or exercising. Help yourself to stay focused through paying attention to the physical sensations, sounds, smells, or tastes of these daily experiences. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to what you are doing.

  • Exercise 

Your body releases stress-relieving and mood-boosting chemicals(endorphins) before and after you work out, which is why exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, and try to do it outdoors. Exposure to sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which increases your level of serotonin in the brain. Plus, time in nature is a proven stress reducer.

  • Eat a good meal. 

What you eat nourishes your whole body, including your brain. Carbohydrates (in moderate amounts) increase serotonin, a chemical that has been shown to have a calming effect on your mood. Protein-rich foods increase hormones or other body chemicals (norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyrosine) which help keep you alert. And vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that feed every cell of your body, including those that affect mood-regulating brain chemicals. Include foods with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fish, nuts, and flaxseed.) Research shows that these nutrients can improve mood and restore structural integrity to the brain cells necessary for cognitive function.

  • Open up to someone.

Knowing you are valued by others is important for helping you think more positively. Trust can increase one’s emotional well-being because you get to find the positive aspects in other people, and become better at recognizing your own. 

  • Be an active member in your society. 

Research shows helping others has a beneficial effect on how someone feels about one’s self. Helping others bring the sense of self-worth and it’s a great way to build self-esteem.

  • Give yourself time to rest

It is good to take a break even in times where it seems like there is too much stress, until you feel a little better. You can try meditation, deep breathing exercises to help you feel better and get back on your fit to complete whatever you were working on or dealing with.  Always go to bed on time.  sleep deprivation has a significant negative effect on your mood. Avoid caffeinated drinks during bed time so that you won’t struggle to get some sleep.

  • Start everyday as a new beginning for everything.

You have the power to take positive steps right now to improve your resilience and emotional health. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to make your mental health a priority. It’s easy to create new habits when you are feeling strong. Slowly practice good health habits until you have a routine which is concrete. There is no harm in trying and everything good you do for body will always produce a good healthy and strong person. So, u better start now than tomorrow.

Level 2: Family

  • Express love and support

Every human being needs to belong, family, friends and loved ones. Having support from people you love or who love you can improve someone’s health status. Families are encouraged to stop neglection of their members especial when experiencing mental health problems. Most of the time, it’s a family member, friend or loved one who can actually tell that something is wrong, and call for help.

  • Appreciate everyone as different as they are

We are all unique individuals and we cannot act or perform the same way. Everyone has their own potentials and what makes them the best are a supporting family, friends or loved ones. Let’s not try to be someone we are not because it will destroy our self-confidence. Let’s say no to low self-esteem, identity crisis, stress through supporting one’s full potentials.

Level 3: Community level

Everyone has a role to play in preventing mental health problems and promoting heling to others experiencing such problems.

  • Positive attitude towards mental health issues.

This makes everyone understand that mental health is part of our existence and everyone is at risk of experiencing it. The community has to accept that such issues are arising everyday and they require every one’s attention so best positive results

  • Say no to mental health stigma

The general population still associate mental health issues with traditional or spiritual beliefs. Stopping mental health is taking a step forward of accepting individuals with such conditions and treating them fairly and equally as any other person. Thy have the right to be loved and cared for, standard medical help, be represented without being taken advantage etc

  • There is need for continued community awareness on mental health.

There is need for people to be educated on mental health to increase their understand. People will gain confident knowing what they are up against and come up with effective solutions which can help in the healing and prevention process of mental health issues.