This Article was written by Zanelle Awinyo, Year 11
Everyone has mental health, just like we have physical health.
A common misconception about mental health is that it’s only present in people with mental illness. People may come to this conclusion because they are not aware of what defines good mental health. Having good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. Good mental health doesn’t mean a person is happy and energetic all the time, but it means being able to cope with challenges and stress effectively. Mental health lies on a spectrum and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum. Like physical health, where you can be healthy or sick, the mental health spectrum runs from mental wellness to mental illness. However, where we are on the spectrum can change over time depending on many factors: biological, social, cognitive and environmental.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. To put it simply, it affects how we think, feel and act. The state of our mental health also determines how we are able to handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions. When someone has good mental health, they are in a state of well-being and they feel functionally well in the world. In other words, they can cope with the normal stressors in life.
On the other end of the spectrum, having poor mental health could mean that an individual has depression, anxiety or major changes to their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. When going through a period of poor mental health, your daily life could be affected.
Many things such as trauma, stress, and sleep problems can affect your mental health. Below is the spectrum of mental health that could help you understand each level.
When a mental health problem is severe enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis, it is then considered a mental illness. Anxiety is an example of an emotion which is a normal reaction to stress or difficult times. When things get extremely overwhelming for an individual, anxiety can mature into a range of mental illnesses such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In 2021, the UAE reported 61% of the teenage population diagnosed with anxiety. However, it is important to separate anxiety as an emotion from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress or difficult times. It is triggered by a specific event or response to a toxic situation. Anxiety lessens significantly or disappears when you are away from stressful situations meaning it has a start and end point. These small episodes of anxiety can be managed by slow breathing exercises, self-talk and/or other relaxation methods.
That is why it is important to have conversations about mental health because by speaking about it and our own struggles, it will then encourage others to do the same, and in turn it could help us all.
Anxiety disorders can cause a person to have intense emotional responses such as panic attacks. While episodes of anxiety attacks may come and go, underlying anxiety would remain with a person for long periods of time. Unlike anxiety, anxiety disorders interfere with day-to-day life. Some common symptoms include withdrawal from hobbies, constant worries and stress and emotional outbursts. Physical symptoms would include sweating, trembling, lightheadedness and a racing heart. If feelings of anxiety are affecting your daily life then there are ways in which they can be supported.
Mental health should be spoken about more openly since it is an essential part of our well-being. Not only that, but it is just as important as our physical health since how you’re feeling mentally may affect the actions you are able to do physically. Normalising conversations about mental health empowers people to speak up about their mental health, educates them on how mental health works, helps them understand their own mental health and ways they could cope with it.
However, while being keen to improve your mental health you should also be careful not to self-diagnose. Self-diagnosing is the process of diagnosing or identifying a medical condition by yourself. It is not beneficial to self-diagnose because you’ll end up causing yourself more stress, which worsens one’s health. Studies have shown, of those who try self-diagnosing on the internet, 74% became stressed because of their search results. It's even more dangerous if people convince themselves that they have the condition they stumbled upon.
Some ways in which you can improve your mental health are by spending less time on social media, practising regular self-care and having a balanced lifestyle. At Kent College, we are very lucky to have a qualified Counsellor and a Well-being Prefect who are able to give us support. In addition to this, Student Pulse is a platform for students to let the school know how they are feeling and what could be improved to make our mental health better.