By Lukman Olarinkoye

I have come to realize that people seem misunderstand what mental health is all about. Often, they confuse mental health with mental illness, which are two different things. 

This is why you, in this article, you will learn what mental is really all about and this journey begins with what mental health and mental illness are.

Mental health is a broad subject matter. It pertains to the level of psychosocial well-being individual possesses. Simply put, it is the absence of mental illness. 

This, therefore, means that mental illness is the inability of an individual to function well in their daily activities, socially and psychologically. Over time, many individuals have suffered mental health problems from time to time. But a mental health problem morphs into a mental illness when constant signs and symptoms (lasting up to 6 months) cause recurrent pressure or stress that disturb one’s capacity to function.

Mental illness is also known as mental health disorder and comprises of a wide range of mental health problems like disorders that affect one’s mood, thinking and behaviour. Mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, mood disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Mental illness is common and does not necessarily mean the person must have mental disorder before one can be said to have mental illness. Certain factors might increase one’s risk of developing a mental illness, including:

  • A history of mental illness in a lineage.
  • Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), example being a violent blow to the head
  • Traumatic experiences, i.e. military combat or assault
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • A childhood history of abuse or neglect
  • Few friends or few healthy relationships
  • A previous mental illness

Signs and symptoms of mental illness are varied, depending on the disorder, situations and other causes. Mental illness symptoms can affect feelings, points of view and behaviours. An instance of signs and symptoms include:

  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations.
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress.
  • Addiction to alcohol and drug use.
  • Major changes in eating habits.
  • Sex drives changes.
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence.
  • Suicidal thoughts

At times symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, i.e. stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unsolved aches and pains.

Therefore, mental illness and mental health are on different sides of the same spectrum. Even though ‘mental health’ has become a buzzword of sorts, it is important that we all understand what it truly means.

This is where the good news comes in: we are not stopping here. More articles are coming right up to cover self-help tips and important tidbits on different mental illnesses.

It is about time we demystified mental health, don’t you agree?