How to help understand mental health better

Mental health is a topic that has slowly become something we talk about more often nowadays. Before it was and sometimes still is that sort of taboo subject matter that people tend to avoid because they don’t understand or don’t want to offer a someone with a mental illness.

However, it’s time to become more educated on mental health and wellbeing, especially as there has been a rise in it in recent years. Here’s how to help understand mental health better.

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The Cause Of Mental Health

Mental health can pretty much affect anyone and everyone. We all want to look after our wellbeing but our mind can be our own worst enemy. The reason that mental health is so difficult to tackle is that a lot of it all takes place inside the person’s head. It’s not just something you can visibly see like you would a broken leg. There are plenty of factors that can contribute to mental health. Here are just a few examples:

Family History

Through both genetics and experiencing it first hand and close up, family history can perhaps increase the risks of someone having the same or some sort of mental health difficulty.

Chemical Imbalance

We are all made up of a variety of chemicals and one thing that could be the cause for a mental illness is a chemical imbalance. These are neurotransmitters and most drugs within the area of mental health, help to correct this balance.

Life Events

Again, the reason why mental health is so prominent is that it can affect anyone. We all have our difficulties in life at some point. That could be a death in the family or stress from a job. Stress, anxiety and grief are all big emotions that can wreak havoc on the mind.

Types Of Mental Health

There are a variety of mental health problems that you can have which is why it’s complex to understand and we usually jump to a negative connotation when the word mental is used in a sentence. So learning about the different types can help with reducing this stigma attached.


Depression is certainly one of the biggest and most common killers with mental health. Feeling down or sad for long periods of time may be a sign that someone is depressed. It could also be struggling to get out of bed and not finding enjoyment in anything they do.

Depression can also be difficult to spot from the outside as we’ve seen with many celebrities in the past who’ve passed due to their mental health. A lot of those with depression tend to put on a brave face and many don’t speak out about how they’re really feeling.


Anxiety is a feeling of unease, of worry or fear. We all experience varying levels of anxiety. It might be waiting to sit down for an exam or going for a job interview. This feeling is perfectly normal but some might find it hard to control these worries.

Anxiety is the main symptom for several conditions including but not limited to panic attacks, PTSD and social anxiety disorders. Anxiety can really be debilitating as it often stops individuals from doing social activities.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is where individuals will feel anxious most days about a wide range of situations and although many do have this disorder, it’s not fully understood as to what causes it. However, a few answers could include:

  • Overactivity in the brain which links to our emotions and behaviour.
  • An imbalance of chemicals in the brain.
  • Genes inherited from family members.
  • A traumatic event that happened to you previously which triggered the anxiety.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are caused by an unhealthy attitude towards food. A lot of us can often have a up and down relationship with food. It usually linked into us wanting to lose or gain weight and for most, this is a healthy balance.

However, eating disorders are more extreme. It can involve eating way too much or too little and can become an obsession when it comes to your weight or shape. Anyone can struggle with an eating disorder but it’s commonly found with young women aged between 13-17. It’s something, like other mental health difficulties, that cannot simply be cured but handled as best as possible throughout the individual’s life.

Most common eating disorders are anorexia where you try to eat as little food as possible to lose weight. This will also involve exercising excessively too.

You’ve got bulimia where individuals will eat a lot in a short space of time (binge eating) and then are deliberately sick. Laxatives are also commonly used to help you pass food quickly. This mental health problem can cause serious harm on the body physically, so is certainly a dangerous one to have.


Psychosis often involves things that aren’t there. Individuals suffering from this will often see, perceive and interpret things differently from those around them. The two main symptoms that come with psychosis are hallucinations and delusions.

  • Hallucinations are where a person will hear, see and in some cases, can smell and taste things that aren’t there. This can indeed be a terrifying experience for both those who suffer from it and those witness it. The most common is where they hear voices.
  • Delusions are the other symptom which is a strong belief that isn’t shared with others. This is usually a belief that there’s a conspiracy to harm them.

Understanding The Mental Illness

Knowing how to help where possible is going to make a huge difference to that friend, colleague or family member that’s suffering. There are plenty of ways that you can help to spot and take the steps needed for each of the mental health conditions talked about above.


With mental illnesses, it’s not about fixing them. When it comes to depression, being there to listen can be so important. Think about what you could say to help understand what they’re going through and finding solutions to their answers. You also want to make sure that you are putting yourself first and looking after your own wellbeing.

Emotional support is something you’ll need to have for that friend or individual. Don’t underestimate depression as it is a serious condition that should be taken with care. Look out for the typical signs below:

  • Not quite themselves. They may not seem to care about anything they do and may withdraw from friends and family.
  • Sleeps less or more than usual and becomes forgetful and disorganised.
  • Drinks more or uses drugs.


Anxiety can be tough to live with on a daily basis but it’s important to be appreciative and understanding of what they are going through. It might be disruptive to regular life events but it’s important not to hold it against them. Always try to be there for them, even if they sometimes can’t be there for you. Encourage them to test their boundaries and to try new things.

Don’t only focus on the anxiety as that doesn’t define that individual, so try and steer the conversation away from the subject of anxiety. Suggest exercising to help with anxious thoughts and explore different support options with them until they find one that works for them.

Eating Disorders

With an eating disorder, it’s good to get them help as soon as possible. As it has a direct impact on the body, if ignored, it could result in serious consequences. Forcing someone to eat or restricting their diet isn’t going to help unless it’s in an environment that’s safe and with trained medical professionals. It might be helpful to refer them to a doctor or psychologist or reading up on what experts like Cynthia Telles have to say.


This area of mental health is a bit more difficult for yourself as psychotic episodes are frequently common for those who suffer from symptoms of psychosis. The most obvious things to spot are paranoia and having strange and disorganised thinking and behaviour.

Seeking professional help, like eating disorders, should be the first thing you do if someone close to you is experiencing this. Try not to panic or overreact when around them and don’t threaten, only speak calmly and simply.

Mental health will hopefully be discussed more freely and without judgement going forward. We all at some point in our lives suffer from our mental health, whether it’s something minute or a period of our life. It can be a daily struggle for some and a brief experience for others.

However, the more we educate one another, the more we can all do to help those who are in need and going through something that seems like no one else is going through.

Be sure to pay attention to those around you and don’t be afraid to ask if someone is ok, as it might be the one question that will end up helping them combat and tackle something that may have been controlling their lives. Be more away today, for all your friends, family and co-workers.

how to understand mental health

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