Let’s Focus on Mental Health
This week our focus will be on mental health, for everyone in society, but with an emphasis on on those in within the care sector.
Mental health can be seen positively: to identify a positive state of mental wellbeing or negatively: to identify a negative state of mental wellbeing, for example, experiencing mental health problems that cause distress and affect an individual’s functioning.
There are numerous mental health conditions including psychosis, depression, mood disorder and anxiety. In any year, 1 in 4 adults in Britain will experience at least one mental health need (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report).
Definition of Mental Health
Mental health has been described as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ according to The World Health Organisation. They further note ‘mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.
‘A person’s mental health is affected by individual factors and experiences, social interaction, societal structures, resources and cultural values. It is influenced by: experiences in everyday life, in families and schools, on streets and at work’.
The Northern Ireland Association for mental health note the key elements experienced by a person with positive mental health. Positive mental health as opposed to the absence of mental health issues:
- Emotional well-being
- Life satisfaction
- Social integration
So put in extremely simple terms being mentally healthy is a combination of physical, emotional and social wellbeing. It’s important to remember however that mental health may be seen on a continuum of good mental health to mental disorder and finally mental illness and most people will move up and down that continuum to a degree though not all will experience a mental disorder and less still a mental illness.
Some people think that depression is not a condition and that it will simply go away. This is not true; it is an illness with recognised symptoms but it is treatable. Most people experience feelings of sadness or being down; however living with depression is different. An individual experiencing depression will feel emotions such as hopelessness and negativity that don’t go away.
Symptoms of depression can last for a couple of weeks, a number of months or longer. Living with depression can affect how an individual sees themselves. This can lead to them not engaging in a social life, with family or their work. There are treatments available to support people with depression. In some cases, having the opportunity to talk and share how they feel can help. There are various organisations that support individuals who are experiencing depression and provide further information on the condition. One example is the ‘Depression Alliance’:
Feeling worried or anxious is normal, many people experience things in life that create these feelings. However, those living with anxiety find it difficult to control their worries. As a result they may feel that things are worse than they are. This can create a number of other symptoms including:
- physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, difficulty breathing and dizziness
- psychological symptoms such as feeling a loss of control, thinking that they might die or have a heart attack, and feelings of wanting to escape or run away
- cognitive symptoms such as changes to your thought processes or thinking negative
thoughts repeatedly behavioural or social symptoms such as not wanting to leave the house, abusing substances such as alcohol or drugs, or behaving in ways that affect relationships. Individuals may stop going out with friends, or to places such as the supermarket, as they are worried about how they might feel when they are there.
Psychological symptoms relate to feelings and emotions, it includes how the mind looks at things and how this can affect behaviour.
Cognitive or cognition refers to our brains and how we think about things; how we process, use and store information we take in through our senses.
Psychosis is a symptom of conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. NHS Choices say that around 3 in 100 people will have at least one experience of psychosis.
There are two significant signs of psychosis:
Hallucinations – where a person sees or hears things that aren’t real but are very real to them. They can also include feeling, smelling or tasting things that aren’t real.
Delusions – where a person believes things that aren’t true, for example believing that someone is
spying on them.
This condition can be described as having a break from reality, when it is difficult for a person to understand what is real and what is in their own thoughts. Symptoms could include hallucinations, delusions and changes in behaviour.
This condition affects a person’s moods and means they can go from one extreme mood to another alongside having feelings of depression.
These experiences can be frightening and lead to behaving in ways that others find strange. One way of supporting someone who is experiencing hallucinations or delusions is to embrace what they are saying or doing. Rather than telling them that you can’t see or hear what they are seeing or hearing, let them know that you are there to help and that they are safe. This could avoid them feeling you don’t believe them and could help ease their stress. Although you do not share in their hallucination or delusion, you do know that it is a real experience for them. Most symptoms of psychosis will get better with treatment. However, in some cases people may have to be admitted to hospital for treatment and support to recover. If your organisation provides care for people with psychosis, speak to your manager about how individuals’ needs are assessed.
An individual may experience a mental health need as a result of:
- a traumatic event, such as an accident, a death in the family or as a result of war
- a chemical imbalance in the brain genetics, for example, a person’s additional needs
may be due to their DNA.
The chemicals or hormones that affect our emotions and behaviour may be lower or higher than they should be. However, the significance of any such chemical imbalances is highly disputed, with the result that there are professional disagreements about how effective various mental health medicines can be.
Mental health problems might be a result of a specific situation (that is ‘reactive’), but that is far from being always true. In any case, such conditions can vary from short-term to being lifelong.
Where to go for support
There are a number of organisations who are working to support people who experience mental ill-health and can provide further information. These include the ‘Mental Health Foundation’ Rethink and ‘Mind’.
You can use their websites to find out more:
We provide bespoke training for Mental Health along with Care Certificate Awareness.
We provide courses that either give the learner awareness of mental health or provides a more detailed understanding that supports people in how to Recognise, Respond, Report and Record. Thus ensuring that the correct medical help and social support is identified for the individual and for the care worker to be in a position to understand how to support an individual on a day to day basis.