What is Mental Health?
This is an important question because a lot of people don’t know what mental health means to them. There are a lot of different definitions out there because mental health is such a subjective and personal experience, but YouthTALK and the CMHA WWD defines mental health as such:
How a person thinks, feels, and acts when faced with life’s situations. How people look at themselves, their lives, and the other people in their lives; evaluate their challenges and problems; and explore choices.
The Mental Health Continuum
The mental health continuum is a great tool for monitoring your own mental health. Take a look at the scale; it ranges from 1-10. 1-3 is considered mental wellness, this is when you are living your life and handling any stress or challenges well. You are coping nicely and life is pretty good. The range of 4-6 is considered mental distress, this is when stress is slowly starting to build up on you and coping mechanisms aren’t working as well anymore. You are starting to feel the stress. Finally, 7-10 is serious mental health challenges. This is where stress has built up so much, that you are nearly overwhelmed by it and you can no longer think about coping mechanisms, or how to handle your challenges. Anywhere from 4-10 is a good time to talk to someone, a friend, a parent or a teacher and explain how you are feeling.
We all live our lives on this continuum, and we all move up and down it in a different way. What makes one person move from a 2 to a 4 may move someone else up to a 9! What makes this a good tool is being aware of what stressors move you up the scale, and more importantly, what helps you move back down towards 1.
- academic pressure and career decisions
- pressure to wear certain types of clothing or hairstyles
- pressure to try drugs, alcohol or sex
- pressure to fit in with peer groups and measure up to others
- adaptation to bodily changes
- family and peer conflicts
- taking on too many activities at one time
Tips for Good Mental Health
- Healthy eating habits – how you feel physically, is very much linked to how you feel mentally. Keeping your body healthy can contribute to a more positive outlook.
- Regular exercise – physical activity is an excellent mood stabilizer. Only 20 minutes of cardio activity can have the same effect as one anti-depressant. Making time for exercise whether it is solo, team oriented or just jogging with a buddy, can have a great impact on your mental health.
- Close friends and family – Surround yourself with people you love and trust, let yourself laugh and have a good time being with them.
- Hobbies and creative activities – Find what you love and make time for it on a regular basis.
- Get lots of sleep! – Adolescents require 9 hours and 45 minutes of sleep every night. This is difficult to accomplish with the demands of school, work, and family. Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep, or a brief nap in the afternoon.
- Having a sense of purpose and validation – Always remember that you are a human being, with as much right to be happy and healthy as anyone else. You deserve to make time for yourself, you deserve the time and effort it takes to feel happy.
If you are looking for more information on specific mental illnesses such as: depression, schizophrenia, anxiety or bipolar disorder, take a look at the resources from the Canadian Mental Health Association