What is Mental Health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. 

Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem: 

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little 
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities 
  • Having low or no energy 
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters 
  • Having unexplained aches and pains 
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless 
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual 
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared 
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends 
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships 
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head 
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true 
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others 
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school 

Mental health challenges can affect anyone—even a person who appears to live in relatively ideal circumstances. 

What is Anxiety? 

Definition of Anxiety: Excessive distress out of proportion with a given situation and manifested by physical symptoms. Anxiety manifests itself in many forms, and while the symptoms can feel overwhelming occurring in conjunction with one another, they are normal expressions of very common feelings. Individuals who’ve experienced or demonstrated the symptoms below may be exhibiting anxiety symptoms. 

Symptoms of Anxiety: 

  • Crying, sadness, anger, explosiveness, frustration, hopelessness, embarrassment, hyper-activity, distraction, poor attention-span, forgetfulness, and memory loss. 
  • A need for repetitive reassurance; inconsolability; an inability to respond to logical reasoning. 
  • Headaches, stomachaches, or vague complaints of feeling sick, accompanied by regular requests to leave classroom, school, or activities. 
  • Anticipatory anxiety that involves worrying hours, days, weeks ahead of an event. 
  • Sleep disruption, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares, difficulty sleeping alone. 
  • Perfectionism that leads to being very self-critical or having high standards for self and others to the point that nothing is ever good enough. 
  • Overly concerned with others opinions; an excessive need to people-please; constant worry that others are upset with him or her; unnecessary apologizing. 
  • Excessive avoidance or refusal to participate in expected activities, such as school, birthday parties, other extracurricular events. 
  • Disruption of family functioning such as, refusing to attend school, friend’s houses, religious activities, family gatherings, errands, or vacations. 
  • Excessive distress regarding everyday situations and normal activities such as doing homework, maintaining good hygiene, or eating regular meals. 

What is Depression? 

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home. 

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include: 

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed 
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting 
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue 
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others) 
  • Feeling worthless or guilty 
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can occur at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. 

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including: 

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry 
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse 
  • Family history of mental health problems 

Source: MentalHealth.gov (www.mentalhealth.gov)  

You are not alone in these struggles and there are people who are ready and willing to help. Struggling with mental health challenges is nothing to be ashamed of or hide. We R H.O.P.E. provides affordable mental health support and coaching, as well as training and consulting services for communities and schools in need.