In light of World Mental Health Day held on October 10, 2021, we increase awareness and knowledge on the concept of preventing mental illnesses. Despite the predominant position of mental health in today’s society, a lot of key facts and figures remain miscommunicated and misjudged.
This brings up the topic, can I prevent mental illness?
Read more to define mental illness and learn about the possibility of preventing such.
How Do You Define ‘Mental Illness’?
Mental illness, or mental disorder, is a condition that significantly alters and influences one’s behaviour, thoughts, cognition, emotions, and social interactions. Through standardised criteria and professional assessment, experts clinically diagnose individuals and take the necessary steps to treatment.
Mental illnesses vary by severity and treatment, like mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders. Stated by the Australian Department of Health in 2007, “According to the World Health Organization, depression will be one of the biggest health problems worldwide by the year 2020.”
And in 2020, 13 years after the statement, 1 in 7 Australians experience depression in their lifetime. With that, “The World Health Organisation estimates that depression will be the number one health concern in both the developed and developing nations by 2030.”
Preventing Mental Illnesses: Possible or Not
The controversial question: Is it possible to prevent mental illness?
While mental disorders arise from independent life experiences, they can also be hereditary. With no control over life experiences and inheritance patterns, mental illnesses cannot be 100% prevented. Although, one of the best ways to combat mental illness and/or sustain optimal mental health, is investing into a healthy lifestyle that leads to a healthy mind and body.
10 Ways Towards A Healthy Mind & Body
There is no universal recipe towards achieving optimal mental health, what works for one, may not work for the other. To get started, here are 10 ways towards a healthy mind and body.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Fatigue can cause feeling stressed or worried. While several mental disorders alter your sleeping patterns, lack of sleep worsens pre-existing conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.
You can maintain good sleeping patterns by aiming for 8 hours, creating and sustaining a night routine, sleeping at a reasonable hour and ideally at the same time daily, and avoiding caffeine after noon. Regardless of the simplicity of sleep, it ensures proper functioning as repair and restoration of the mind and body occurs.
2. Balanced Diet
Diet does not only affect your physical health, but also your mental health in a domino effect. Poor diet hinders calmness and worsens symptoms of mental illnesses.
A well-balanced diet consists of regular meals of fats, fibre, and nutrients which manage energy, stress, anxiety levels, concentration, and blood sugar levels. More specifically, include fruits and vegetables to reduce sugar intake, fatty fish rich in omega-3s, avocado, nuts, and beans to your diet.
3. Clear the Vices to Prevent Mental Illnesses
Often a given, a reminder to clear your vices does not hurt.
Alcohol and drug consumption affects your brain’s functions and well-being. These substances harm your ability to think, create, feel, and make decisions.
4. Remain Physically Active
Tying to a balanced diet, exercise optimises mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and symptoms of a pre-existing mental illness, and improving your mood, self-esteem, memory, and sleep.
Staying active does not have to be rigorous activity. If you do not or cannot participate in fitness activities, these are the simplest ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine:
- Riding a bike
- Playing individual or team sports
- Going for walks
- Jogging or running
5. Enjoy Your Hobbies
As previously emphasised, the ways of maintaining your mental health are unique — just like your hobbies.
Aside from its role as a distraction, investing time into your hobbies improves your sense of mental health and well-being, and increases your confidence and self-esteem. The key to this is discovering the things you love to do and spending quality time on your existing hobbies.
To get the ball rolling, do you love to read, paint, dance or cooking?
6. Stay Connected to Prevent Mental Illnesses
It’s important to remember that you are not alone.
The mere face-to-face interaction with someone who cares is a very effective way to relieve stress, loneliness, disconnection, and calm your nervous system. Socialising does not have to be dreadful, nor forced, as it comes in different forms. You maintain connections by reaching out, catching up with friends and family, staying around trusted people without the need to talk, supporting others, and investing into relationships.
7. Minimise Stress
Unfortunately, stress is a part of our daily lives but it doesn’t always have to take a toll on you.
It’s easier said than done, but removing yourself from stressful environments and situations is an investment into your mental health. And apart from removing yourself, you can learn to anticipate and avoid such situations through problem-solving. However, it’s important to remember that stress is inevitable, yet it can be reduced.
8. Paper & Pen
For some, talking about their thoughts and feelings cause discomfort and further stress. If this applies to you, journaling may be a solution.
At first, it can seem silly to write down about yourself and address yourself, or maybe even no one in particular. But, remember, journaling is a process and it brings relief to the mind, clarification to your thoughts, and care to your well-being. If you have given it a try and did not find comfort or other benefits — don’t worry, there are other ways to express your feelings and thoughts.
9. Absorb Sceneries
Of all, this may be the easiest to do on a daily basis. You do not need to travel to scenic places to absorb sceneries for a moment of relaxation and mindfulness.
It is a moment to relax your mind to recover from the stress of the day, the week or the month. Stepping out to your garden or even looking out your window for a few minutes feels like a reset button.
10. Vitamins to Prevent Mental Illnesses
First off, vitamins can come from oral supplements or from your diet. In these terms, different vitamins provide benefits to your memory, problem-solving, mental health, cognition, and vision. For a specific breakdown of brain function, vitamin intake, and food examples, check out Think Mental Health.
On top of those sources, spending some time under the sun increases serotonin levels and improves symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. More specifically, serotonin is a hormone that boosts one’s mood, elevate calmness, and improves your focus.
Prevent Mental Illnesses: Takeaway
While one cannot prevent mental illness, there are ways to maintain good mental health in order to reduce and tackle the symptoms of such. As you now have 10 ways to achieve a healthy mind and body, it is about discovering what works for you as a unique individual. There are many more ways out there, you are not limited to 10 ways.
If you are experiencing thoughts of hurting yourself or others, call 000 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room or psychiatric hospital for a crisis evaluation. Alternatively, contact the Mental Health Line or 1800 011 511 and a mental health professional will answer your call about mental health concerns for you or someone you are concerned about, including children, teens, adults and older people.
For further helplines, visit the Government of Western Australia’s Mental Health Commission.
All of the information has only been verified by a BS Psychology student from the University of Leeds and pending on verification from a psychology expert.