About Mental Health
Mental health is about being able to work and study to your full potential, cope with day-to-day life stresses, be involved in your community, and live your life in a free and satisfying way. A person who has good mental health has good emotional and social wellbeing and the capacity to cope with change and challenges.
Feeling down, tense, angry, anxious or moody are all normal emotions for people, but when these feelings persist for long periods of time, or if they begin to interfere with their daily life, they may be part of a mental health problem. Mental health problems can affect your feelings, thoughts and actions, and can affect your ability to function in their everyday activities, whether at school, at work, or in relationships.
If you feel you know a person whose mental health is getting in the way of their daily life, it is important to let them know you are there to support them.
Most parents can tell when something is out of the ordinary, but there are also signs that suggest a young person might be experiencing a mental health problem.
Signs and Symptoms
It can be helpful to talk to someone about what's going on in your life if you have noticed a change in how you are feeling and thinking. This might include:
- Feeling things have changed or aren't quite right
- Changes in the way that you carry out your day-to-day life
- Not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that you would normally enjoy
- Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
- Being easily irritated or having problems with friends and family for no reason
- Finding your performance at school, TAFE, university or work is not as good as it used to be
- Being involved in risky behavior that you would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol, or depending on these substances to feel "normal"
- Feeling sad or 'down' or crying for no apparent reason
- Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Having negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts
- Feeling unusually stressed or worried.
Mental health risk factors
A number of overlapping factors may increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. These can include:
- Early life experiences: abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you
- Individual factors: level of self-esteem, coping skills and thinking styles
- Current circumstances: stress at school or work, money problems, difficult personal relationship, or problems within your family
- Biological factors: family history of mental health problems
Looking after your mental health
here are a number of things you can do to look after and maintain your mental health and wellbeing. For example, many people cope with stress by getting involved with sports, exercising, meditating, or practising yoga or relaxation techniques. Others express themselves through art, such as poetry, writing or music. What you eat might also affect your mood – a well-balanced diet will help keep you both physically and mentally healthy.
If you are concerned about your own or a friend's mental health and wellbeing, headspace is a great place to go for help. Getting support can help you keep on track at school, study or work, and in your personal and family relationships. The sooner you get help the sooner things can begin to improve for you.
The link between good mental health and exercise
Physical exercise is good for our mental health and for our brains. Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) in the brain. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking. Exercise can also stimulate other chemicals in the brain (brain derived neurotrophic factors) which help new brain cells to grow and develop. Exercise also seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress.
Any exercise is better than none. A moderate level of exercise seems to work best. This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time. It's recommended that if you're aged 12-18 you need 60 minutes, or if you're over 18 you need 30 minutes, of moderate physical exercise on most, but preferably all days. This can be done in one 30 minute session or broken up into shorter 10 or 15 minute sessions.
When you're feeling down the last thing you might feel like doing is working out, but studies have suggested that any activity, from walking around the block to yoga to biking could contribute to improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety.