Mental Health Issues
Mental health is something that everyone possesses and it is vital that we are aware of the need to look after our mental well-being in the same way that we would take care of our physical health.
Maximising our mental health will allow us to live a better, more enjoyable and fulfilled life in terms of seeing the value in ourselves, enhancing our relationships with family and friends, being productive at work, and making a contribution to our community. Good mental health also helps us get through the difficult times in our lives.
Mental health issues include depression, shyness, anxiety and panic attacks, along with those experiencing physical and financial difficulties, but it is important to remember that support is available to help you find the path to recovery and live a normal life.
Statistics have revealed that in Ireland that at some point in their lives one in four people will experience a mental health issue.
One of the main problems is that the majority of people are reluctant to address the issue due to embarrassment or stigma.
According to the WHO: Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.
Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time.
Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations.
There are specific psychological and personality factors that make people vulnerable to mental health problems. Biological risks include genetic factors.
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Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.
In short, someone who purposefully harms another in any way is committing abuse. There are many kinds of abuse encountered by adults. Some types of abuse are more obvious than others. Some of the most recognised types are:
• Domestic violence
If you experience abuse this may impact on your mental health. Even if it happened in your childhood it can still affect how you feel today. It can help to seek support.
Anger is a basic human emotion that is experienced by all people – it’s part of being human. Anger is triggered by an emotional hurt and is usually experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we think we have been injured, mistreated, opposed in our long-held views, or when we are faced with obstacles that keep us from attaining personal goals.
Anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion; it can sometimes be useful. For example, feeling angry about something can:
• help us identify problems or things that are hurting us
• motivate us to create change, achieve our goals and move on
• help us stay safe and defend ourselves in dangerous situations by giving us a burst of energy as part of our fight or flight system
Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you. This can happen when:
• you regularly express your anger through unhelpful or destructive behaviour
• your anger is having a negative impact on your overall mental and physical health
• anger becomes your go-to emotion, blocking out your ability to feel other emotions
• you haven’t developed healthy ways to express your anger
It can help to seek support.
Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal – it can be completely debilitating. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life.
Anxiety can become a mental health problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For example, it may be a problem for you if:
• your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
• your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
• you avoid situations that might cause you to feel anxious
• your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control
• you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, which could include panic attacks
• you find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.
It can help to seek support
Bereavement is the experience of losing someone important to us. It is characterised by grief, which is the process and the range of emotions we go through as we gradually adjust to the loss.
Losing someone important to us can be emotionally devastating – whether that be a partner, family member, friend or pet. It is natural to go through a range of physical and emotional processes as we gradually come to terms with the loss.
Bereavement affects everyone in different ways, and it’s possible to experience any range of emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Feelings of grief can also happen because of other types of loss or changes in circumstances, for example:
• the end of a relationship
• the loss of a job
• moving away to a new location
• a decline in the physical or mental health of someone we care about or indeed your physical or mental health
It can help to seek support.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience:
• manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high)
• depressive episodes (feeling low)
• potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes
Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.
It can help to seek support
Nearly everyone has felt depressed, sad, or down in the dumps at one time or another. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to a stressful event, such as when one suffers a loss or endures another of life’s various struggles or stresses.
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.
Symptoms of depression:
• down, upset or tearful
• restless, agitated or irritable
• guilty, worthless and down on yourself
• empty and numb
• isolated and unable to relate to other people
• finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
• a sense of unreality
• no self-confidence or self-esteem
• hopeless and despairing
How you might behave:
• avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
• self-harming or suicidal behaviour
• difficulty speaking, thinking clearly or making decisions
• difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
• using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
• difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
• feeling tired all the time
• no appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
• physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
• moving very slowly or being restless and agitated.
It can help to seek support.
We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different.
One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. But loneliness is not always the same as being alone.
You may choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people, while others may find this a lonely experience.
Or you may have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely – especially if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you.
Loneliness has many different causes, which vary from person to person. We don’t always understand what it is about an experience that makes us feel lonely.
For some people, certain life events may mean they feel lonely, such as:
• experiencing a bereavement
• going through a relationship break-up
• retiring and losing the social contact you had at work
• changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers
• starting at university
• moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks.
• Other people find they feel lonely at certain times of the year, such as around Christmas.
Some research suggests that people who live in certain circumstances, or belong to particular groups, are more vulnerable to loneliness. For example, if you:
• have no friends or family
• are estranged from your family
• are a single parent or care for someone else you may find it hard to maintain a social life
• belong to minority groups and live in an area without others from a similar background
• are excluded from social activities due to mobility problems or a shortage of money
• live in a rural area
It can help to seek support
A panic attack is an intense wave of fear characterized by its unexpectedness and debilitating, immobilizing intensity. Your heart pounds, you can’t breathe, and you may feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Panic attacks often strike out of the blue, without any warning, and sometimes with no clear trigger. They may even occur when you’re relaxed or asleep.
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement.
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
• a pounding or racing heartbeat
• feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
• feeling very hot or very cold
• sweating, trembling or shaking
• nausea (feeling sick)
• pain in your chest or abdomen
• struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
• feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
• feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
• losing control
• going to faint
• having a heart attack
• going to die.
You might find that you become scared of going out alone or in public places because you’re worried about having another panic attack.
Panic attacks can happen during the day or night. Some people have one panic attack then don’t ever experience another, or you might find that you have them regularly, or several in a short space of time. You might notice that certain places, situations or activities seem to trigger panic attacks. For example, they might happen before a stressful appointment.
Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change. The things that affect our self-esteem differ for everyone. Your self-esteem might change suddenly, or you might have had low self-esteem for a while – which might make it hard to recognise how you feel and make changes.
Your self-esteem can affect whether you:
• like and value yourself as a person
• are able to make decisions and assert yourself
• recognise your strengths and positives
• feel able to try new or difficult things
• show kindness towards yourself
• move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
• take the time you need for yourself
• believe you matter and are good enough
• believe you deserve happiness.
Difficult or stressful life experiences can often be a factor, such as:
• being bullied or abused
• experiencing prejudice, discrimination or stigma
• losing your job or difficulty finding employment
• problems at work or while studying
• ongoing stress
• physical health problems
• relationship problems, separation or divorce
• worries about your appearance and body image
• problems with money or houseing
• You might have had some of these experiences, and you might also have had difficulties that aren’t listed here. Or there might not be one particular cause.
Whatever has affected your self-esteem, it’s important to remember that you have the right to feel good about who you are. It might feel as if changing things will be difficult, but there are lots of things you can try to improve things bit by bit.
Stress is a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work, or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don’t get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health.
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, but it’s not easy to pin down exactly what stress means. When we say things like “this is stressful” or “I’m stressed”, we might be talking about:
• Situations or events that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don’t have much control over what happens.
• Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.
It’s overwhelming. Sometimes you can’t see beyond the thick fog of stress.
The first risk of self/diagnosis is that you might miss something subtle but important about your problem or issues which would, in turn, cause you to misdiagnose yourself, possibly with disastrous results. For example, you might think you have an anxiety condition of some sort, but closer professional examination might uncover an underlying serious medical problem such as an heart arrhythmia You might treat yourself as though you have an uncomplicated anxiety problem (e.g., with relaxation exercises) and completely miss the fact that you have a serious medical condition that requires medical treatment. There is really no good way to reduce this type of risk except to go to a professional for a professional diagnosis.