What is Mental Health?
The terms mental health and mental illness are often used interchangeably but the two are very different. Mental illness refers to a recognized medical condition, whereas mental health just like physical health refers to a state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. As opposed to physical health, the concept of mental health is poorly understood especially among the general population. For example, most people know how lack of exercise can affect their physical health, but very few people understand how it can also deteriorate their mental health and make them more vulnerable to various health issues.
Mental health issues are extremely common. According to the latest data reported by CAMH - The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences mental health problems or illnesses in any given year.
Why is Mental Health Important?
Mental health is how we feel about ourselves and it significantly affects us and the people around us. Sound mental health allows us to handle stress, cope with challenges, react and respond to different situations and make appropriate choices in life to remain a productive asset to society.
Mental health does not depend on the presence or absence of an existing mental illness. Data suggests that people with no recognized or diagnosed mental illnesses may have poor mental health. Poor mental health aggravates the risk of various physical and mental health issues such as diabetes, depression, hypertension, stroke, heart diseases, peptic ulcer disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to list a few. Research also suggests that people with poor mental health are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem than the general population.
Poor management of mental health issues also affects society in the long run, as people with poor mental health often struggle with normal day-to-day functions. They are less likely to maintain a full-time job. According to a new report, the unemployment rate is as high as 70 - 90,% among individuals with severe mental illnesses. In Canada, over 500,000 employed individuals cannot work due to mental health issues in any given week, including:
- Over 355,000 cases of disability due to behavioral or mental health issues
- Over 175,000 full-time employees lose work due to mental health issues
The latest data suggests that the economic cost of mental health issues in Canada exceeds $51 billion per year due to lost productivity and healthcare costs.
Early intervention can help improve the overall outcome, but public mental health services in Canada are largely underfunded so most Canadians rely on employer-based benefits or self-payment to cover the cost of mental health services. According to the latest data, Canadians spend over $950 million per year on the management of mental health issues, of which 30% is paid out of pocket while employer-based benefits cover the remaining cost.
Tips to Manage Your Mental Health:
Life throws hurdles and obstacles our way every day. Every day we face various issues that can challenge our mental well-being. However, some simple tips can help you maintain your joy and peace through adversity.
- Healthy body means healthy mind:
Your physical health relates to your mental health. If you are fit and healthy, you will have a positive outlook on life. Research suggests that people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or heart diseases are more likely to develop mental health issues. Likewise, people with mental health issues are at higher risk of developing other medical conditions. For example, depression may present with digestive issues, chronic headaches, and changes in appetite and weight.
It is important to take proactive measures to maintain optimal physical health.
Physically active lifestyle: Exercise and dynamic lifestyle releases endorphins or happy chemicals that alleviate anxiety and make you feel happy and energetic. Likewise, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at higher risk of developing various physical health problems (such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes) and mental health issues. A Study suggested that physical activity has a direct relationship with mental health. Individuals who engage in aerobic and strength training physical activity report fewer poor mental health days. According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, it is recommended for adults over the age of 18 years to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week. Limiting the sedentary period to less than 8 hours a day (with no more than 3 hours of screen time) is also recommended. It is also advised to break the long hours of sitting by incorporating small breaks that involve physical activity.
- Eat healthy food: Consume a well-balanced diet as research suggests that deficiency of some nutrients can increase your risk of developing some mental illnesses. A study reported in the Neuropsychiatry journal suggested that chronic deficiency of Vitamin D is strongly linked to the development of depression. Consuming a balanced diet can therefore help in improving both mental and physical health.
- Get enough sleep: Every individual needs adequate sleep to feel good and function better. Research suggests that chronic sleep deprivation is associated with anxiety, agitation, and various psychiatric illnesses. Another study suggests that long-term sleep deprivation can lead to premature aging and early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. According to CSEP (The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) guidelines, an average adult over 18 years requires 7 to 9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis.
- Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages:
Watch what you drink, and it doesn’t only pertain to alcoholic beverages. Canada is among the top ten highest coffee-consuming nations of the world. Research suggests an average Canadian drinks 2.7 cups of coffee per day.
Excess intake of caffeinated or energy drinks (such as cola, black tea, and coffee) acts as stimulants and gives you an energy burst. However, excessive or untimely intake of caffeinated beverages can also lead to irritability, nervousness, and agitation. It also affects your sleep, so experts recommend avoiding caffeinated beverages at least two hours before bedtime. It is also recommended to increase your water intake as most caffeinated drinks cause dehydration, which may aggravate the feeling of fatigue or tiredness.
- Limit Your Alcohol consumption:
Many people drink alcohol because they feel alcohol will take the edge off and help to calm or relax them. But if you are drinking in excess every day or drinking because you are stressed out, you should speak to a professional.
According to the Canadian Center on Substance Use or Addiction statistics, alcohol is the most common drug used in Canada. Over 78.2% of the population over the age of 15 reported consuming alcohol in the past year. The average alcohol consumption exceeds 7.8L per person per year over 15 years. Excessive alcohol consumption causes a wide variety of short-term as well as long-term complications. The annual cost of alcohol-related problems that includes lost productivity, corrections, healthcare cost, and law enforcement costs exceeds $5 billion.
- Always staying positive:
Try to maintain a positive outlook on life. It doesn’t mean that you cannot feel sad or upset when things go wrong. However, when you are faced with a negative situation, try to find something positive to keep you going. Don’t dwell in the past and worry too much about the future. If you are in a negative situation or company, take a break and look for something positive. If you are upset or in distress, look for support and discuss with a friend or family member. Avoid getting into arguments or debates.
- Practicing gratitude:
Find positive things, people, and events in your life and practice gratitude. Find something positive in your life every day and make a mental note or write in a journal. It could be a big event like getting a promotion at the job or something as little as enjoying a nice meal with family. When you have a positive experience, try to embrace it and enjoy it. Practising gratitude helps you appreciate what you have and lessens the feeling of despair and sadness when things don’t go your way.
- Connect with others:
Like Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher said, “Man is by nature a social animal”. We all need friends, family members and the support of other people in our surroundings to live a productive life. Try to maintain healthy relationships with people in your surroundings (colleagues, neighbours, classmates, etc.). Surround yourself with supportive people who appreciate and build you and refrain from the company of people who put you down or add to your mental stress. Research suggests that community involvement or volunteering also improves mental health.
Meditation techniques are mindfulness exercises that help control your focus and attention. There are different types and varieties of meditation. To meditate:
- Find a place or spot with fewer distractions
- Find a posture that is comfortable or relaxing (it could be sitting, lying, or standing)
- A focal point of attention that you could be an object, a set of words/ chant, or breathing exercises
- Have an open mind to allow distractions to come and go without any judgments
- Take a break:
Taking a break from the regular routine is often refreshing. But most importantly, we all need a break from the monotonous routine, whether it is a change of scenery (in the form of vacation or getaway) or just doing something different for a change of pace. For example, using a different route to work, going out for a walk during lunch break or taking a power nap. Listen to your body and brain, like take a nap when you feel tired or take time off from work if you feel bored or stressed at work.
- Develop your coping skills:
Develop strong coping skills when faced with a challenging situation. Learning coping skills helps prevent distress or getting overwhelmed when you are in a tricky situation. Find ways to calm yourself, devise a plan and not give up.
- Relaxation Techniques:
These are exercises, postures and techniques that can help your body relax. Whenever you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or tired, practice relaxation techniques such as:
- Deep breathing – Breathe in from nose (like smelling roses) and breathe out from your mouth like blowing candles – breathing exercises helps in lowering down blood pressure and releasing positive chemicals to control stress
- You can also perform some exercises to release tension from your muscles and tissues. Experts recommend taking a break every hour for at least 10 minutes, during which you can take a break, close your eyes, or take a walk.
- Know when to ask for help:
We are all humans who need help and support from others to live a productive and happy life. Know when you need to ask for help or assistance, be it a task at home, school, or work or if you need help to keep your mind at ease.
Friends and family can listen to you, understand you and give a good piece of advice
If you want to talk to a professional, speak to your primary care provider or request a referral to a counselor. Other ways of finding help and support are:
- Join a support group
- Speak to a therapist to deal with your feelings and to make updates in your life
Where Do You Go From Here?
If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or agitated, get your mental health assessed via an online assessment tool from the comforts of your home. This in-depth assessment tool is designed by Life Support Mental Health, a platform that helps you identify mental health challenges and connects you to mental health experts so you can find the help you need. Your mental health professional may advise a pharmaceutical aid or another form of therapy to help with the symptoms. Remember that seeking help when you need it, is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health crisis, check out the following additional resources and never hesitate to reach out if /when you need help.
What is the Canadian Government doing about the Mental Health Crisis?
In 2017, the Federal Government of Canada committed to an investment of $5 billion over the next ten years to ensure improved access to mental health services to Canadians. An additional investment of $25 million was committed in the Budget 2019 to implement a phone/ text-based technology for Suicide Prevention. The Government of Canada recognizes mental health issues as a form of disability and invests heavily to support mental health initiatives in the coming years.
Other Valuable Resources:
Suicide Prevention Services: If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves or ending their life, call 1-833-456-4566 or visit Canada Suicide Prevention Service for help.
Kids Help Phone: Canadians aged 5 to 29 can speak to a trained responder anonymously by texting at 686868 or calling 1-800-668-6868.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information: If you are looking for helpful resources and mental health improvement modules, visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca to learn valuable coping skills to improve your mental health.
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division: If you have questions about available mental health resources or programs in BS, call 1-800-555-8222 or visit www.cmha.bc.ca. There are various programs, self-help courses and modules that can help manage mild to moderate cases of anxiety or depression.
HealthLink BC: If you have any non-emergency questions about your mental health issues or illnesses, contact www.healthlinkbc.ca or call 811 to speak to a registered nurse about any worrisome symptoms.
Mednow Ca: This is a valuable platform that offers resources and vital information about coping with various health issues. The 24/7 online pharmacy provides same-day or next-day delivery of your prescription drugs at no charge in select states. You can also call the helpline and speak to a registered pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescription or medications.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as medical or other professional advice. A healthcare provider should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed, and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services is expressly given or implied by Mednow or its affiliates.Get Started