World Mental Health Day occurs annually on 10th October and its purpose is to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilise efforts in support of mental health.
Each year, the World Federation for Mental Health chooses a theme on which to promote ‘World Mental Health Day’.
Previous themes have included ‘Mental Health in the Workplace’, ‘Dignity in Mental Health’ and ‘Mental Health and Older Adults’. This year’s chosen theme was ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.
What is mental health?
Also referred to as ‘well-being’ or ‘emotional health’, mental health is equally as important as physical health, but because it is not as outwardly visible it is often overlooked.
Good mental health can be characterised by a person’s ability to feel, express and manage a range of emotions, their ability to form and maintain good relationships with others, to cope with change and uncertainty, to learn, have positive self-esteem, feel engaged with the world around them, and be able to live and work productively.
Most of us at some stage in our lives will feel stressed, frightened, anxious or down. Usually, these feelings pass, but they can develop into more serious long-term mental health conditions. Examples of these conditions include (but are not limited to):
- bipolar disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
Young people and mental health in a changing world
As noted above, the theme chosen for World Mental Health Day 2018 was ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’.
The World Health Organisation has found that half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 but most go untreated or undetected. This means that it is important to be aware of and to understand the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness. There has been a push for psychosocial support to be provided in schools and community services to enable them to detect and manage mental health disorders in pupils and service users.
The impact of change and/or trauma on a young person’s mental health
Young people experience many changes and pressures in their lives. These include sitting examinations, family and relationship break-downs, leaving home, loneliness, peer pressure, starting university and/or employment. Such significant changes can cause feelings of stress and anxiety which, if not managed, can lead to mental illness.
Trauma can also have a negative impact on a young person’s mental health.
When a person’s body experiences a traumatic event, its defences take effect, and this can lead to a variety of physical symptoms. The individual might experience more intense emotions, and start behaving differently. While this is a perfectly response to threat, if these feelings can persist they can lead to more serious mental health problems such as depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What can be done to look after a young person’s mental health?
First and foremost, it is important that the young person/adult looks after themselves. This might include turning to others for support, or seeking professional help if they find that they are experiencing symptoms which are affecting their day to day life.
There are also many practical ways to look after your mental health. Examples of these include:
- taking regular exercise
- eating healthily
- drinking sensibly
- getting enough sleep
- participating in an activity that you enjoy
- asking for help and talking to others
- keeping a mood diary. This can help identify triggers which are positively and negatively affecting an individual’s mental wellbeing. This will enable them to take steps to prepare for or avoid negative situations.
The overriding message is that it is important to stay safe. If feelings become so overwhelming that a person begins to experience suicidal thoughts or are thinking of self-harming, it is vital to seek help from the emergency services, A&E, emergency GP appointments of NHS 111 (England) or NHS Direct Wales.