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Updated: Sep 14, 2020

“Mental” refers to “relating to the mind”. “Health” refers to “a state of being free from illness”. Thus, “Mental health” refers to a state of mind which is free from illness.

According to the World health organization (WHO), “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Mental health refers not only to emotional well being, but also how people think and behave. Factors like life satisfaction, resilience (the ability to bounce back from adversity), social support and emotional flexibility (acceptance of situations) play a significant part in impacting mental health.

Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with increased learning, creativity, positive social relationships with improved life expectancy. According to the National Mental Health Association, people who are mentally healthy, do not become overwhelmed by emotions like fear, anger, love, jealousy, guilt or anxiety, have respect for themselves and for others and are able to accept life’s disappointments. Hence, it needs to be taken care of and maintained just like physical health.

What happens if mental health is not taken care of?

Lack of efforts in looking after mental health and under estimating, bottled up thoughts and emotions may lead to inevitable problems as follows:

1) Physical illnesses:

The link between mental health and physical health is often misunderstood. These, often considered as separate entities, go hand in hand. Mental health directly impacts physical health. Neglecting mental health issues can give rise to more serious health complications like Heart diseases, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, asthma, obesity and gastronomical problems.

2) Mental illnesses:

Negative feelings of helplessness and hopelessness result in chronic stress. Unattended sad feelings for a longer period of time can make one vulnerable to depression, which if left unattended can result in chronic fatigue, increased sensitivity to pain due to abnormal functions of neurotransmitters in the brain. Avoiding or suppressing emotions may even lead to anxiety, aggression and problems with memory.

3) Incarceration:

If mental health issues are not taken care of appropriately, the individual may find it difficult to conform to societal norms. This in turn, may lead to inappropriate behavior or misconduct on the part of the individual. Such misdeeds could put an individual behind the bars.