What is mental health? | Advice for Young People | Jigsaw

What is mental health?

What is mental health?

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Mental health is something we all have. It’s an essential part of all of us which includes our thoughts and feelings, how we are getting on with other people and how we are managing day-to-day life.

In this article, you will find:

What is ‘good mental health’?

Having good mental health is about feeling positive about ourselves, or sometimes just good enough. It’s about being able to do the things that matter to us. Just as everyone has physical health, everyone also has mental health. The state of our mental health doesn’t stay constant but changes, often in response to things that are happening in our life.

Check out this video which explains what we mean by the term mental health.

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All of us will experience both good and poor mental health during our life. The more we understand and accept this the easier it will be for people to seek support when they are experiencing difficulties with their mental health.

How our thoughts are affected

All of us will experience both good mental health and poor mental health during our life.

Mental health difficulties and distress can show in different ways. We can be can affected in our thoughts and feelings or relationships. Our ability to manage the everyday tasks and challenges of life may also be affected. Some people feel very sad or worried. Some might find it really hard to deal with school, work or college.

Others might have a difficult relationship with their own body, or unusual experiences such as hearing voices. Our mental health includes moments of great distress and pain as well as our everyday sense of wellbeing and resilience.

What is going on can be obvious to others, like when someone is getting very angry or upset a lot. Or it can be something that stays hidden and is difficult for others to see or understand. If someone is feeling very worried or thinking very negatively about themselves, it could remain private and not be noticed by others.

What challenges our mental health?

Challenges to our mental health can be relatively brief, or persist for many years to come and go over time. Mental health difficulties rarely have one definite cause. They usually involve the combination of a lot of different factors.

To get a good understanding of what’s going on with someone’s mental health we need to look broadly at what is going on in their life now.

We also need to consider what has happened in the past. Relationships, levels of stress, physical health, experiences growing up, thinking style and significant life events are some of the things that might contribute to our mental health, either positively or negatively.

Mental health difficulties and emotional distress are often an understandable response to events or circumstance in our lives. In Jigsaw we believe that we all have mental and emotional health that we need to look after as best we can.

It will change depending on our life experience and circumstances. We also know that we will all experience difficulties and distress at times in our lives.

All professionals agree that anyone experiencing mental health difficulties, or worried about their mental health, should be able to access support.

How we talk about mental health difficulties

There are a range of different ways of thinking about and talking about mental health. In Jigsaw, we prefer to use everyday language to describe mental health difficulties. So we tend not to use medical words like ‘illness’, ‘diagnosis’ or ‘disorder’.

However, we know that this way of understanding mental health fits for some people and that’s OK. In our experience we find it more useful to use the language of the young people that we work with.

This helps us to remember that each person has an experience of problems that is unique to them. Everyone experiences sadness at times. But because we all live unique lives the feelings, thoughts and responses we have will be personal to us.

So, instead of trying to answer the question ‘what is wrong with you?’ we find it more helpful to ask questions like:

  • What would you like to be different?
  • What is still going well despite the difficulties?
  • What has happened to make you think or feel this way?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do people appreciate about you?
  • Who understands this best?
  • Who could help and support you with it?
Two people sitting on chairs in a waiting area

Support for mental health

All professionals agree that anyone experiencing mental health difficulties, or worried about their mental health, should be able to access support.

Support can come in many different ways. It could be self-directed, through self-help books or mental health apps.  It could be from a friend, member of your family, professional or a combination depending on what’s going on. Sometimes just knowing that everyone goes through difficult times, or getting a slightly different view on what’s bothering you, can help.

Learn more about speaking to a member of the Jigsaw team with our 1:1 Live Chats here.

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