Factors affecting mental health

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Good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. It can be seen as a state of mental health that allows one to flourish and fully enjoy life.

Everyone experiences down times in life. The ability to cope with negative experiences varies greatly from one person to another and, in large part, determines whether people enjoy their lives.

factorsSome of the factors that affect the mental health of youth are as follows.

Self-esteem

This is the value we place on ourselves, our positive self-image and sense of self-worth. People with high self-esteem generally have a positive outlook and are satisfied with themselves most of the time.

Feeling loved

Children who feel loved, trusted and accepted by their parents and others are far more likely to have good self-esteem. They are also more likely to feel comfortable, safe and secure, and are better able to communicate and develop positive relationships with others.

Confidence

Youth should be encouraged to discover their own unique qualities and have the confidence to face challenges and take risks. Young people who are brought up to have confidence in themselves are more likely to have a positive attitude, and to lead happy and productive lives.

Family breakup or loss

Separation or divorce or the loss of a parent or sibling is extremely painful. Finding ways to cope and adjust to the changes wrought by these events is critical for everyone, but particularly for youth. How grief is handled can affect young people negatively for years to come. If children are having difficulty coping, professional help is recommended.

Difficult behaviour

When people are unhappy, they either internalize their unhappiness or act out. The latter usually appears as bad or difficult behaviour, such as using abusive language, being aggressive or violent, damaging property, stealing, lying, refusing to comply with requests or expectations at school or home, or displaying other inappropriate actions. If such behaviour is serious and persistent, the young person and his or her family might require professional help.

Physical ill health

Diseases, injuries and other physical problems often contribute to poor mental health and sometimes mental illness. Some physical causes (such as birth trauma, brain injury or drug abuse) can directly affect brain chemistry and contribute to mental illness. More commonly, poor physical health can affect self-esteem and people's ability to meet their goals, which leads to unhappiness or even depression. In such cases, receiving the best possible treatment for both the physical problem and the resulting psychological consequences is key to optimal recovery to good mental health.

Abuse

The mental health of abused children is at great risk. Abused children are more likely to experience mental disorders or mental illness during childhood and into adulthood.

Abuse may be physical, sexual, psychological or verbal. It may not always be evident or easily recognized. Regardless of the form it takes, abuse cannot be tolerated. Children need to be protected from abuse and helped to overcome its negative effects. Abuse can cause feelings of low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, depression, isolation and anger—all feelings that impair a child's chance to lead a happy life.

Trust in others and feelings of being safe and cared for are key components to recovery from abuse. Few children are able to recover on their own. Support is critical, and professional counselling is sometimes required. If abuse is discovered early, the chances of a child returning to a healthy state of mind and avoiding serious mental disorders are greatly enhanced.

These are but a few of the factors that can affect children's mental health and contribute to mental illness. If you would like more information, a list of some reliable websites and resources is included on this website under Useful Links and Resources.

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