What is mental health?
Mental health and physical health have a lot in common. While physical health is about the state of our physiological wellbeing, mental health is about the state of our psychological and emotional wellbeing. Both are important, and we need to take active care of both.
Having good mental health means being able to think, feel and behave in helpful ways. We all have ‘off’ days when we might feel sad, anxious and find life difficult. Times like this are perfectly normal, especially in response to challenges in life. However, if you find that your thoughts, feelings and reactions are making life hard, possibly even unbearable, you might be going through a period of poor mental health.
Mental health problems are common. Around one in four people will be affected by mental health difficulties in any given year. They can happen to anyone, of any age and walk of life. They are also more common when we are under stress and at times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Common mental health problems
It would be impossible to give a comprehensive list of the things that people bring to therapy, but here are some of the more common mental health issues:
- managing anger and other powerful feelings
- stress and anxiety
- depression and low mood
- low self-confidence / self-esteem
- couples counselling/relationship issues (of all kinds)
- bereavement, loss and grief
- self-harm and other unhelpful habits
- obsessions, compulsions and control issues
- past, current or childhood abuse
- trauma and PTSD
- bullying and conflict resolution
- loneliness and isolation
- redundancy/employment issues
- pregnancy, miscarriage or termination
- health issues
- sexual problems
- managing change and dealing with life events
If you don’t see the thing or things that are troubling you on the list, don’t worry. It’s far from exhaustive, and many people can’t identify what’s troubling them. They just know something is wrong, or they are simply not enjoying life any more.
Maintaining good psychological health
There are things we can all do to maintain or improve our mental health. These include:
- getting enough sleep
- exercising regularly
- eating healthily
- maintaining contact with friends and family
- reducing the use of recreational drugs and alcohol
- stopping smoking
Often there are specific things you can do to help manage some of the issues that trouble us. The NHS maintains a list of helplines for common conditions and the Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust produces a set of handy self-help guides. We have also linked further resources on each of our specific subject pages (see above).
How do I know if I need help?
The very fact you are asking this question suggests that now might be an excellent time to talk with someone. It’s much better to nip problems in the bud than to allow them to develop and become more serious.
Here are some common symptoms associated with mental health problems:
- bring stressed, anxious or irritable
- having a persistent low mood
- feeling teary
- having difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- finding it hard to get to sleep or stay asleep, or sleeping too much
- becoming withdrawn or isolated from friends and family
- using drugs or alcohol to help you cope
- having thoughts of harming yourself or others
- wanting to end your life
If you are experiencing some of the above, it might be worth speaking with a professional; especially if you have been feeling that way for some time or the difficulties are getting worse.
Where can I get help?
If you feel you are at risk of harming yourself or someone else, or of ending your life, please get help now. Call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to A&E. You can also talk with the Samaritans on 116123.
No matter what the problem, big or to small, counselling might help. Please complete the contact form or call us on 0151 329 3637 or email email@example.com. We would be happy to speak with you. You can also access free counselling in the NHS. Your GP or NHS 111 will tell you how to get a referral.