- Describe mental health, mental illness, and strategies for improving mental health
- Describe the eight dimensions of wellness
Knowing how to take care of your mental health when you’re in college is just as important as maintaining your physical health. In fact, there’s a strong link between the two: doctors are finding that positive mental health can actually improve your physical health.
What is mental health? Mental health can be defined as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community. Having good mental health doesn’t necessarily mean being happy or successful all the time. Most people feel sad, lonely, or anxious now and then, but those with good mental health can take these feelings in stride and overcome them. When such feelings or moods persist and interfere with a person’s ability to function normally, though, it may be a sign of a more serious mental health problem and time to seek help.
The term mental illness refers to mental disorders or health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. It’s also one of the leading causes of disability globally, contributing to the overall burden of disease.
Evidence has shown that mental disorders, especially depressive disorders, are strongly linked to the occurrence and course of many chronic diseases—including diabetes; cancer; cardiovascular disease; asthma; obesity; and many risk behaviors for chronic disease, such as physical inactivity, smoking, excessive drinking, and insufficient sleep. In other words, if your mental health is poor, you may be at greater risk for disease and poor physical health.
Mental Health Indicators
In the public health arena, more emphasis and resources have been devoted to screening, diagnosing, and treating mental illness than mental health. Little has been done to protect the mental health of those who are free from mental illness. There are some known indicators of mental health, including the following:
- emotional well-being: life satisfaction, happiness, cheerfulness, and peacefulness.
- psychological well-being: self-acceptance, personal growth including openness to new experiences, optimism, hopefulness, purpose in life, control of one’s environment, spirituality, self-direction, and positive relationships.
- social well-being: social acceptance, belief in the potential of people and society as a whole, personal self-worth and usefulness to society, and a sense of community.
The former surgeon general suggests that there are social determinants of mental health—just as there are social determinants of general health—that need to be in place to support mental health. These determinants include adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, equitable jobs and wages, quality education, and equity in access to quality health care.
There are also some common-sense strategies that you can adopt to support and improve your emotional, psychological, and social health. Not surprisingly, they are very similar to the strategies one uses to cope with stress:
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Get regular physical activity.
- Stay socially connected with friends and family.
- Make smart choices about alcohol and drugs.
- Get help if you are anxious or depressed.
The Eight Dimensions of Wellness
When we think about our health, there are many aspects that contribute to our overall wellness. A popular model revolves around the eight dimensions of wellness pictured here:SAMSHA, which stands for substance abuse and mental health services administration, developed a wellness initiative focusing on these areas. You may notice some aspects of wellness wheel were covered in other areas in the course. Their dimensions and brief descriptions are as follows:
Intellectual: u Physical: r Occupational: p
Review your areas in more detail and evaluate them using the J. Flowers Health Institute Wellness Wheel Worksheet. What are some of your strengths and weaknesses? What improvements can you make to your wellness wheel to feel more balanced in life?
mental health: a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community
mental illness: disorders or health conditions characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning
- "Depression." World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression. ↵
- "8 Dimensions of Wellness." J. Flowers Health Initiative, 2020, http://www.jflowershealth.com/8-dimensions-of-wellness/#Resources. ↵
- "Creating a Healthier Life: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wellness." Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016, http://www.store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma16-4958.pdf. ↵