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group of people talking about mental health

We answer your most Googled questions on mental health

02 Oct 2023 • 7 min read

Mental health is a term that we’re all very familiar with, especially now more than ever, as the percentage of people who suffer with a mental health illness is ever increasing. 

The Mental Health Foundation found that 1 in 5 people felt anxious most or all of the time. Despite anxiety being so common, stigma and shame play a part in how people deal with anxiety; around 45% of UK adults with feelings of anxiety keep it a secret.1

Read on to discover the topmost Googled questions surrounding mental health and why spreading awareness about it is so important.

1. What is mental health? 

Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It can influence our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and therefore can determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.2

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood.

2. Are mental health problems increasing?

Yes. 
 
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of mental illness in England had been slowly but steadily rising, and this has only accelerated during and since.

According to BMA, the latest evidence suggests that mental illness may be growing at a faster rate for children and young people than amongst adults.

Between 2017 and 2022, rates of probable mental disorder increased from around 1 in 8 young people (aged 7-16) to more than 1 in 6. For those aged 17-19, rates increased from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4.3

3. Can mental health be genetic? 

Certain mental disorders tend to run in families, and having a close relative with a mental disorder could mean you are at a higher risk. 

Anxiety, for example, is a complex mental health condition that’s likely to be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

While anxiety isn’t just down to genetics, there is evidence to show that genetics can play a role in making someone more susceptible to developing anxiety. Anxiety can run in families, demonstrating a genetic link and increased risk among close relatives.4

“Some conditions are more strongly expressed through genetic transmission and others can be inherited but remain latent within individuals until they are triggered by external factors such as experiencing stress, engaging in harmful behaviours such as excessive alcohol consumption or recreational drug use et cetera”, explains Dr Natasha Bijlani, consultant psychologist.

Though, this being said, if a family member has a mental disorder, it does not necessarily mean you will develop one. Many other factors also play a role, such as environmental and psychological factors.5

4. How does mental health affect daily life? 

Everyday life can be full of ups and downs, and our thoughts affect how we cope with these challenges. When our mind is not in a good state, it can make usual tasks feel more difficult and overwhelming. This can lead to feeling isolated, withdrawn, and unable to enjoy life.

Having a mental health illness can often make daily tasks tedious or seem purposeless. It can be difficult to get out of bed and routines can become a struggle. Memory and cognition can also be affected by mental health.6

Researchers from the UKRI Loneliness and Social Isolation and Mental Health Network conducted a qualitative study in 2022 which showed that participants “described close connections between their mental health and feeling lonely”, with mental health difficulties leading to feeling lonely and vice versa.

The stigma associated with mental health also played a part in the declining mental health of participants, as one participant described that: “People walk away. You mention the word hospital, people walk. You mention the word psychiatry and people walk away”.7

5. Why does mental health matter?

Positive mental health is crucial in today’s world, influencing every aspect of our lives. 

Mental health can impact our thoughts, actions, emotions, stress responders and interactions. It enables us to navigate challenges, build meaningful relationships, and make informed decisions.8
Mental and psychological wellbeing encompasses the way we feel about ourselves, but also the way we deal with external situations and the quality of our relationships. 

It’s important to remember that positive mental health is not simply the absence of mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Being mentally healthy is predominantly about the presence of positive characteristics such as a feeling of purpose, contentment, maintaining fulfilling relationships and participating in life to the fullest.9

6. Why is mental health awareness important? 

“Anyone who is able to identify symptoms of ill-health, whether they are “mental” or “physical” is likely to seek treatment sooner than later”, says Dr Bijlani.

Talking openly about mental health can reduce the misconceptions and stigma that surrounds it and can encourage those who are suffering to seek help and find a support network.

“Early detection and management invariably leads to a more favourable response and in those who are affected by recurrent periods of ill-health, can help reduce worsening of symptoms leading to complete relapse.

Awareness of mental health issues can also help reduce stigma in society which has historically been a significant barrier for individuals to seek treatment for themselves. Just like most physical ill-health conditions, mental health conditions are treatable although prone to recurrence.”

7. When is mental health awareness month? 

The Mental Health Foundation started Mental Health Awareness Week in 2001. In recent years it has evolved to focus on preventing mental health problems and has become one of the most high-profile public campaigns in the UK.

Each May, millions of people take part in raising mental health awareness across the whole of the UK. And every year we celebrate World Mental Health Day on the 10th October.10

“Mental health can change with time, depending on various factors, such as stress levels and an individual’s resources and coping abilities.

Good mental health can be achieved and maintained by engaging in healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity, prioritising rest and sleep on daily basis, regular stress management such as meditation or other relaxation strategies, eating healthily, having meaningful structure and routine in your daily life, engaging with others to avoid social isolation and seeking suitable support as needed.”

8. Can SAD affect mental health? 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year.11 

“It is thought that exposure to less sunlight and shorter days lead to chemical changes in the brain, affecting a sleep-related hormone called melatonin. This hormone also impacts on mood”, says Dr Bijlani.

Often, you might find that if you have other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, these will worsen at times when you’re affected by SAD.

“Symptoms of SAD tend to recur around the same time every year in affected individuals and may resemble other mental health conditions. The treatment involves increasing exposure to daylight such as spending time outdoors in the mornings or sitting near a window as well as exposure to special light therapy for a few hours each day, as well as cognitive behavioural or interpersonal talking treatments that can help change distorted views the individual may have developed of themselves and the environment around them.

Sometimes antidepressants can also be prescribed if nonpharmacological treatments aren’t initially effective.”
For more on this, head over to our article Why does winter affect my mood?

Final Say

“There has been a lot of ongoing research in seeking evidence to prevent mental ill-health, such as improving social inequality, improving access to education, identifying and managing trauma as well as more sophisticated research into novel treatments other than traditional medications such as trans-magnetic stimulation to manage resistant depressive disorders”, describes Dr Bijlani.

Dr Bijlani advises the public “to be self-aware of your mental health, try and keep a balance in as many aspects of your life as possible and if you identify any mental health or emotional difficulties, to seek suitable support as soon as possible.”
We hope that this article has answered some of your questions and cleared up speculation surrounding the topic of mental health. Mental health is something that should be taken as seriously as any other health condition.

You can speak to your GP about any initial mental health support. And make sure to check in with your loved ones, even if it’s a simple ‘how are you?’ text.

The NHS provides a number of Mental Health Services as does MindSamaritans , Movember and many more.

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Sources

1. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/about-us/news/new-research-reveals-anxiety-gripping-uk-many-people-struggle-cope#:~:text=One%20in%20five%20people%20(20,anxiety%20keep%20it%20a%20secret 
 
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