What is Mental Health and Why is it Important?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. According to data from 2018, approximately one in five teens in the U.S. has a mental illness. The current percentage is likely to be even higher given the circumstances of the last year. However, mental health affects everyone, not only those with mental illness.

In the past, mental health has been a taboo subject to talk about in the U.S., and there has been a lot of stigma surrounding it. Americans do not want to talk about their mental health for fear of being perceived as weak. Mental health is not just mental illness however, despite there being some overlap. When people talk about mental health, their brain automatically jumps to mental illness, but the reality is that mental health refers to a person’s state of mind, their emotional and psychological well-being, and their ability to handle the stresses of daily life, whether they have a mental disorder or not.

There are many factors that can diminish mental health, including major stressors at work, home, or school, such as if a big presentation or test is coming up, or a fight with a friend or family member. Good mental health is important for coping in everyday life; nobody functions as well when they are anxious or stressed than if they are more relaxed. There are ways to help to relieve stress and improve mental health, such as having a self-care day or being sure to eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise on a regular basis. Some people may feel overwhelmed, so taking a step back from everything that needs to be done and just organizing and prioritizing things can help to alleviate the stress of all those tasks.

A lot of people think that mental health is not important, but that is far from true. The Health Triangle describes three different categories someone needs to balance to be considered healthy. Those three categories are physical, social, and mental. Mental health is a third of what makes up a person’s health and is just as important as exercise or talking with friends. There is overlap between the three categories when it comes to staying healthy, like if physical activity makes a person feel good and helps them to de-stress, then running or a workout can be beneficial to the mental and physical sides of the health triangle. Or if someone feels better when they are at a club, social gathering, or even hanging out with friends, activities that involve other people can benefit the mental and social sides of the triangle.

Good mental health is an important part of a healthy and happy life and it is just as important to a person’s well-being as physical health. There are many different ways to stay mentally fit, and it is important that everyone finds the way or ways that work best for them. Although Mental Health Awareness Month only happens once a year in May, it is important to continue the discussion of mental health and destigmatize the way people think about it. Mental health is not just mental illness; it is something that everyone has and something that everyone should pay attention to, for their own well-being.

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