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The Importance of Mental Health

Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.

mental health matters essay

Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities.

mental health matters essay

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Risk Factors for Poor Mental Health

Signs of mental health problems, benefits of good mental health, how to maintain mental health and well-being.

Your mental health is an important part of your well-being. This aspect of your welfare determines how you’re able to operate psychologically, emotionally, and socially among others.

Considering how much of a role your mental health plays in each aspect of your life, it's important to guard and improve psychological wellness using appropriate measures.

Because different circumstances can affect your mental health, we’ll be highlighting risk factors and signs that may indicate mental distress. But most importantly, we’ll dive into all of the benefits of having your mental health in its best shape.

Mental health is described as a state of well-being where a person is able to cope with the normal stresses of life. This state permits productive work output and allows for meaningful contributions to society.

However, different circumstances exist that may affect the ability to handle life’s curveballs. These factors may also disrupt daily activities, and the capacity to manage these changes. 

The following factors, listed below, may affect mental well-being and could increase the risk of developing psychological disorders .

Childhood Abuse

When a child is subjected to physical assault, sexual violence, emotional abuse, or neglect while growing up, it can lead to severe mental and emotional distress.

Abuse increases the risk of developing mental disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or personality disorders.

Children who have been abused may eventually deal with alcohol and substance use issues. But beyond mental health challenges, child abuse may also lead to medical complications such as diabetes, stroke, and other forms of heart disease.

The Environment

A strong contributor to mental well-being is the state of a person’s usual environment . Adverse environmental circumstances can cause negative effects on psychological wellness.

For instance, weather conditions may influence an increase in suicide cases. Likewise, experiencing natural disasters firsthand can increase the chances of developing PTSD. In certain cases, air pollution may produce negative effects on depression symptoms.  

In contrast, living in a positive social environment can provide protection against mental challenges.

Your biological makeup could determine the state of your well-being. A number of mental health disorders have been found to run in families and may be passed down to members.

These include conditions such as autism , attention deficit hyperactivity disorder , bipolar disorder , depression , and schizophrenia .

Your lifestyle can also impact your mental health. Smoking, a poor diet , alcohol consumption , substance use , and risky sexual behavior may cause psychological harm. These behaviors have been linked to depression.

When mental health is compromised, it isn’t always apparent to the individual or those around them. However, there are certain warning signs to look out for, that may signify negative changes for the well-being. These include:

  • A switch in eating habits, whether over or undereating
  • A noticeable reduction in energy levels
  • Being more reclusive and shying away from others
  • Feeling persistent despair
  • Indulging in alcohol, tobacco, or other substances more than usual
  • Experiencing unexplained confusion, anger, guilt, or worry
  • Severe mood swings
  • Picking fights with family and friends
  • Hearing voices with no identifiable source
  • Thinking of self-harm or causing harm to others
  • Being unable to perform daily tasks with ease

Whether young or old, the importance of mental health for total well-being cannot be overstated. When psychological wellness is affected, it can cause negative behaviors that may not only affect personal health but can also compromise relationships with others. 

Below are some of the benefits of good mental health.

A Stronger Ability to Cope With Life’s Stressors

When mental and emotional states are at peak levels, the challenges of life can be easier to overcome.

Where alcohol/drugs, isolation, tantrums, or fighting may have been adopted to manage relationship disputes, financial woes, work challenges, and other life issues—a stable mental state can encourage healthier coping mechanisms.

A Positive Self-Image

Mental health greatly correlates with personal feelings about oneself. Overall mental wellness plays a part in your self-esteem . Confidence can often be a good indicator of a healthy mental state.

A person whose mental health is flourishing is more likely to focus on the good in themselves. They will hone in on these qualities, and will generally have ambitions that strive for a healthy, happy life.

Healthier Relationships

If your mental health is in good standing, you might be more capable of providing your friends and family with quality time , affection , and support. When you're not in emotional distress, it can be easier to show up and support the people you care about.

Better Productivity

Dealing with depression or other mental health disorders can impact your productivity levels. If you feel mentally strong , it's more likely that you will be able to work more efficiently and provide higher quality work.

Higher Quality of Life

When mental well-being thrives, your quality of life may improve. This can give room for greater participation in community building. For example, you may begin volunteering in soup kitchens, at food drives, shelters, etc.

You might also pick up new hobbies , and make new acquaintances , and travel to new cities.

Because mental health is so important to general wellness, it’s important that you take care of your mental health.

To keep mental health in shape, a few introductions to and changes to lifestyle practices may be required. These include:

  • Taking up regular exercise
  • Prioritizing rest and sleep on a daily basis
  • Trying meditation
  • Learning coping skills for life challenges
  • Keeping in touch with loved ones
  • Maintaining a positive outlook on life

Another proven way to improve and maintain mental well-being is through the guidance of a professional. Talk therapy can teach you healthier ways to interact with others and coping mechanisms to try during difficult times.

Therapy can also help you address some of your own negative behaviors and provide you with the tools to make some changes in your own life.

A Word From Verywell

Your mental health state can have a profound impact on all areas of your life. If you're finding it difficult to address mental health concerns on your own, don't hesitate to seek help from a licensed therapist .

World Health Organization. Mental Health: Strengthening our Response .

Lippard ETC, Nemeroff CB. The Devastating Clinical Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect: Increased Disease Vulnerability and Poor Treatment Response in Mood Disorders . Am J Psychiatry . 2020;177(1):20-36. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.19010020

 Helbich M. Mental Health and Environmental Exposures: An Editorial. Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2018;15(10):2207. Published 2018 Oct 10. doi:10.3390/ijerph15102207

Helbich M. Mental Health and Environmental Exposures: An Editorial. Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2018;15(10):2207. Published 2018 Oct 10. doi:10.3390/ijerph15102207

National Institutes of Health. Common Genetic Factors Found in 5 Mental Disorders .

Zaman R, Hankir A, Jemni M. Lifestyle Factors and Mental Health . Psychiatr Danub . 2019;31(Suppl 3):217-220.

Medline Plus. What Is mental health? .

National Alliance on Mental Health. Why Self-Esteem Is Important for Mental Health .

By Elizabeth Plumptre Elizabeth is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps brands craft factual, yet relatable content that resonates with diverse audiences.

Mental Health Essay for Students and Children

500+ words essay on mental health.

Every year world mental health day is observed on October 10. It was started as an annual activity by the world federation for mental health by deputy secretary-general of UNO at that time. Mental health resources differ significantly from one country to another. While the developed countries in the western world provide mental health programs for all age groups. Also, there are third world countries they struggle to find the basic needs of the families. Thus, it becomes prudent that we are asked to focus on mental health importance for one day. The mental health essay is an insight into the importance of mental health in everyone’s life. 

Mental Health Essay

Mental Health

In the formidable years, this had no specific theme planned. The main aim was to promote and advocate the public on important issues. Also, in the first three years, one of the central activities done to help the day become special was the 2-hour telecast by the US information agency satellite system. 

Mental health is not just a concept that refers to an individual’s psychological and emotional well being. Rather it’s a state of psychological and emotional well being where an individual is able to use their cognitive and emotional capabilities, meet the ordinary demand and functions in the society. According to WHO, there is no single ‘official’ definition of mental health.

Thus, there are many factors like cultural differences, competing professional theories, and subjective assessments that affect how mental health is defined. Also, there are many experts that agree that mental illness and mental health are not antonyms. So, in other words, when the recognized mental disorder is absent, it is not necessarily a sign of mental health. 

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

One way to think about mental health is to look at how effectively and successfully does a person acts. So, there are factors such as feeling competent, capable, able to handle the normal stress levels, maintaining satisfying relationships and also leading an independent life. Also, this includes recovering from difficult situations and being able to bounce back.  

Important Benefits of Good Mental Health

Mental health is related to the personality as a whole of that person. Thus, the most important function of school and education is to safeguard the mental health of boys and girls. Physical fitness is not the only measure of good health alone. Rather it’s just a means of promoting mental as well as moral health of the child. The two main factors that affect the most are feeling of inferiority and insecurity. Thus, it affects the child the most. So, they lose self-initiative and confidence. This should be avoided and children should be constantly encouraged to believe in themselves.

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A Helping Hand: An Essay On The Importance Of Mental Health Parity

A Helping Hand: An Essay On The Importance Of Mental Health Parity

By: Sydney Waltner

More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. But not everyone will receive the help they need. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only forty percent of adults and fifty percent of youth receive the medical help they need. Even though mental illness is common and can affect anyone, there is still a great stigma attached. This stigma creates reluctance and shame in seeking help.  The acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses has come a far way from where it used to be, but improvements can, and should still be made. 

Mental illnesses should not be thought of any differently from physical illnesses. In fact, I believe the two are inseparable. Because the whole body is connected and interwoven, the two cannot be separated. The brain is an organ just like everything else in the body and can be hurt like everything else. When the brain is ill, it is not isolated in just the brain, but instead affects the whole body and the overall wellness. Substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide are very common and dangerous in those with mental illnesses. The stigma surrounding mental illness keeps people from getting the help they need to get better and causes them to hide their pain.   

For three years I was one of those people hiding my illness. I was quietly suffering from depression and an eating disorder. My whole day revolved around my eating disorder and hiding it from everyone. This caused a lot of sadness, anger, and loneliness. I not only hid it from others, but I also tried to hide it from myself. I tried to convince myself that nothing was wrong because I did not fully understand what was happening.  I did not know what was making me hurt myself and why I could not stop. As my weight was decreasing, my sadness and anger were quickly increasing. I became so mad and upset at everyone and everything. The stress and pressure of holding everything in caused me so much misery. If something small happened, it became too much to handle and I had to release it somehow. The only way I could think of to handle this was to hit myself and other things until I forgot about all my pain. By this time, it was impossible to hide my illness, and my family finally found out my deep secret.  They did not want to see me suffer like that and wanted to help. They tried their hardest to help, but they just did not know how to help me. They tried to get me to go see somebody and get help, but I refused. I was scared of admitting that I had a mental illness and that I needed help. I was worried that people would judge me, treat me differently, or even bully me if they found out about my mental illness. So, I refused to get any help.  I insisted that I was okay and could fix it myself. After a while of getting worse, my parents made me an appointment and told me I was going to get help. I remember crying and begging my mother to not make me go, but she did, and I am so grateful to her now.

For almost a year now I have been going to see a mental health counselor once a week. It took me a while to open up to her and tell her how I felt. But when I realized she was there for me and did not judge me, I was finally able to let her help me. Looking back now, I cannot believe how sick and miserable I was. I cannot imagine how my life would be if I had not received her help. I cannot express how grateful I am to her. She has changed my life for the better, I am so much happier and healthier now and look forward to living. 

Receiving help is the most important thing anyone can do for themselves. But unfortunately, the stigma keeps people from getting help.  Mental illness should not be something to be ashamed about or thought of differently. When mental illness is treated equally to other illnesses, more people will have the courage to get help and better their lives.

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Home — Essay Samples — Nursing & Health — Mental Health — The Importance of Mental Health Awareness


The Importance of Mental Health Awareness

  • Categories: Mental Health Social Isolation Stress Management

About this sample


Words: 1622 |

Updated: 4 November, 2023

Words: 1622 | Pages: 4 | 9 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, mental health awareness, video version, emotional well-being, psychological well‐being, social well-being.

  • Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aginglifecarejournal.org/health-effects-of-social-isolation-and-loneliness/.
  • Top of Form Mental Health Myths and Facts https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts
  • Mental Health Care Services by Family Physicians Position Paper. American Academy of Family Physicians Web site. http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/policy/policies/m/mentalhealthcareservices.htm. Accessed February 11, 2013. [Google Scholar]
  • Newman, T. (2017, August 24). Mental health: Definition , common disorders, and early signs. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154543.php.
  • Bottom of Form Rodriguez, B. D., Hurley, K., Upham, B., Kilroy, D. S., Dark, N., & Abreu, E (n.d.).Happiness and Emotional Well-Being. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/understanding/index.aspx.
  • World Health Organization. The Global Burden of Disease, 2004 Update. Part 4, Burden of Disease, DALYs. http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GBD_report_2004update_full.pdf . Accessed January 10, 2013. [Google Scholar]

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Essay on Mental Health

According to WHO, there is no single 'official' definition of mental health. Mental health refers to a person's psychological, emotional, and social well-being; it influences what they feel and how they think, and behave. The state of cognitive and behavioural well-being is referred to as mental health. The term 'mental health' is also used to refer to the absence of mental disease. 

Mental health means keeping our minds healthy. Mankind generally is more focused on keeping their physical body healthy. People tend to ignore the state of their minds. Human superiority over other animals lies in his superior mind. Man has been able to control life due to his highly developed brain. So, it becomes very important for a man to keep both his body and mind fit and healthy. Both physical and mental health are equally important for better performance and results.

Importance of Mental Health 

An emotionally fit and stable person always feels vibrant and truly alive and can easily manage emotionally difficult situations. To be emotionally strong, one has to be physically fit too. Although mental health is a personal issue, what affects one person may or may not affect another; yet, several key elements lead to mental health issues.

Many emotional factors have a significant effect on our fitness level like depression, aggression, negative thinking, frustration, and fear, etc. A physically fit person is always in a good mood and can easily cope up with situations of distress and depression resulting in regular training contributing to a good physical fitness standard. 

Mental fitness implies a state of psychological well-being. It denotes having a positive sense of how we feel, think, and act, which improves one’s ability to enjoy life. It contributes to one’s inner ability to be self-determined. It is a proactive, positive term and forsakes negative thoughts that may come to mind. The term mental fitness is increasingly being used by psychologists, mental health practitioners, schools, organisations, and the general population to denote logical thinking, clear comprehension, and reasoning ability.

 Negative Impact of Mental Health

The way we physically fall sick, we can also fall sick mentally. Mental illness is the instability of one’s health, which includes changes in emotion, thinking, and behaviour. Mental illness can be caused due to stress or reaction to a certain incident. It could also arise due to genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, child abuse or trauma, social disadvantage, poor physical health condition, etc. Mental illness is curable. One can seek help from the experts in this particular area or can overcome this illness by positive thinking and changing their lifestyle.

Regular fitness exercises like morning walks, yoga, and meditation have proved to be great medicine for curing mental health. Besides this, it is imperative to have a good diet and enough sleep. A person needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night on average. When someone is tired yet still can't sleep, it's a symptom that their mental health is unstable. Overworking oneself can sometimes result in not just physical tiredness but also significant mental exhaustion. As a result, people get insomnia (the inability to fall asleep). Anxiety is another indicator. 

There are many symptoms of mental health issues that differ from person to person and among the different kinds of issues as well. For instance, panic attacks and racing thoughts are common side effects. As a result of this mental strain, a person may experience chest aches and breathing difficulties. Another sign of poor mental health is a lack of focus. It occurs when you have too much going on in your life at once, and you begin to make thoughtless mistakes, resulting in a loss of capacity to focus effectively. Another element is being on edge all of the time.

It's noticeable when you're quickly irritated by minor events or statements, become offended, and argue with your family, friends, or co-workers. It occurs as a result of a build-up of internal irritation. A sense of alienation from your loved ones might have a negative influence on your mental health. It makes you feel lonely and might even put you in a state of despair. You can prevent mental illness by taking care of yourself like calming your mind by listening to soft music, being more social, setting realistic goals for yourself, and taking care of your body. 

Surround yourself with individuals who understand your circumstances and respect you as the unique individual that you are. This practice will assist you in dealing with the sickness successfully.  Improve your mental health knowledge to receive the help you need to deal with the problem. To gain emotional support, connect with other people, family, and friends.  Always remember to be grateful in life.  Pursue a hobby or any other creative activity that you enjoy.

What does Experts say

Many health experts have stated that mental, social, and emotional health is an important part of overall fitness. Physical fitness is a combination of physical, emotional, and mental fitness. Emotional fitness has been recognized as the state in which the mind is capable of staying away from negative thoughts and can focus on creative and constructive tasks. 

He should not overreact to situations. He should not get upset or disturbed by setbacks, which are parts of life. Those who do so are not emotionally fit though they may be physically strong and healthy. There are no gyms to set this right but yoga, meditation, and reading books, which tell us how to be emotionally strong, help to acquire emotional fitness. 

Stress and depression can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including suicide in extreme situations. Being mentally healthy extends your life by allowing you to experience more joy and happiness. Mental health also improves our ability to think clearly and boosts our self-esteem. We may also connect spiritually with ourselves and serve as role models for others. We'd also be able to serve people without being a mental drain on them. 

Mental sickness is becoming a growing issue in the 21st century. Not everyone receives the help that they need. Even though mental illness is common these days and can affect anyone, there is still a stigma attached to it. People are still reluctant to accept the illness of mind because of this stigma. They feel shame to acknowledge it and seek help from the doctors. It's important to remember that "mental health" and "mental sickness" are not interchangeable.

Mental health and mental illness are inextricably linked. Individuals with good mental health can develop mental illness, while those with no mental disease can have poor mental health. Mental illness does not imply that someone is insane, and it is not anything to be embarrassed by. Our society's perception of mental disease or disorder must shift. Mental health cannot be separated from physical health. They both are equally important for a person. 

Our society needs to change its perception of mental illness or disorder. People have to remove the stigma attached to this illness and educate themselves about it. Only about 20% of adolescents and children with diagnosable mental health issues receive the therapy they need. 

According to research conducted on adults, mental illness affects 19% of the adult population. Nearly one in every five children and adolescents on the globe has a mental illness. Depression, which affects 246 million people worldwide, is one of the leading causes of disability. If  mental illness is not treated at the correct time then the consequences can be grave.

One of the essential roles of school and education is to protect boys’ and girls' mental health as teenagers are at a high risk of mental health issues. It can also impair the proper growth and development of various emotional and social skills in teenagers. Many factors can cause such problems in children. Feelings of inferiority and insecurity are the two key factors that have the greatest impact. As a result, they lose their independence and confidence, which can be avoided by encouraging the children to believe in themselves at all times. 

To make people more aware of mental health, 10th October is observed as World Mental Health. The object of this day is to spread awareness about mental health issues around the world and make all efforts in the support of mental health.

The mind is one of the most powerful organs in the body, regulating the functioning of all other organs. When our minds are unstable, they affect the whole functioning of our bodies. Being both physically and emotionally fit is the key to success in all aspects of life. People should be aware of the consequences of mental illness and must give utmost importance to keeping the mind healthy like the way the physical body is kept healthy. Mental and physical health cannot be separated from each other. And only when both are balanced can we call a person perfectly healthy and well. So, it is crucial for everyone to work towards achieving a balance between mental and physical wellbeing and get the necessary help when either of them falters.


Mental Health Matters: Strategies for Managing Anxiety and Feeling Happier

Published may 24, 2023, courses mentioned in this post: building personal resilience: managing anxiety and mental health and  the path to happiness: what chinese philosophy teaches us about the good life.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected rising rates of anxiety globally? Can we actually help ourselves feel happier? Is it possible to support others who are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and other mental health challenges? 

Screenshot of webinar large

Harvard leaders Dr. Luana Marques and Professor Michael Puett gathered with moderator Anna Bartuska to answer these questions and more in our latest webinar, Mental Health Matters: Strategies for Managing Anxiety and Feeling Happier. 

In this 60-minute webinar, Dr. Marques and Professor Puett shared their personal experience with anxiety, discussed trending topics in mental health, answered participant questions, and gave advice on how to manage anxiety and feel happier by implementing science- and philosophy-driven solutions into your daily life. 

Puett says, “We’ve gone through a pandemic, we have been living in the world of social media for the last 15 years, and we are facing a difficult structural future with issues like climate change, rising inequality, and lack of social mobility. All of this is playing into the rise of anxiety. But of course, while most of these challenges are new, people have been wrestling with issues of anxiety for thousands of years.” 

Marques notes, “Anxiety itself is not the problem, it’s what we do when we are anxious that is the problem.”

Dr. Marques is the author of Bold Move , course faculty for Building Personal Resilience , Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Founder and Director of Community Psychiatry PRIDE at Massachusetts General Hospital , and former President of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America . 

Professor Puett is the Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and Anthropology at Harvard University. His interests are focused on the inter-relations between history, anthropology, religion, and philosophy, with the hope of bringing the study of China into larger historical and comparative frameworks. He is the author of The Path: A New Way to Think About Everything , The Ambivalence of Creation: Debates Concerning Innovation and Artifice in Early China, and To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China, as well as the course faculty for Harvard Online’s course The Path to Happiness .

Moderator Anna Bartuska is a doctoral student at the University of Oregon and former coordinator at PRIDE at Massachusetts General Hospital .

“Imagine a world where people would spend as much time training their brain as they do their physical body,” notes Marques.

“You can start training your brain to break patterns by going back to the mundane level of your life. When you’re walking down the street on a daily basis, start training your brain to notice everything that is going on around you,” shares Puett.  

“There is magic in the mundane,” agrees Marques.   

For more discussion and strategies on managing anxiety and feeling happier, view the full webinar:

To continue learning about managing anxiety and building resilience from Dr. Luana Marques, register for her course Building Personal Resilience: Managing Anxiety and Mental Health . 

To continue learning about how to experience more happiness, register for Professor Michael Puett’s online course The Path to Happiness: What Chinese Philosophy Teaches us about the Good Life .

Disclaimer: The content provided in this webinar is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as medical advice. The content is not, and should not, be relied upon as medical advice, and should not be used to make a clinical diagnosis, to provide treatment, or to replace or overrule a licensed health care provider's judgment.  

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Debate: Student mental health matters – the heightened need for school‐based mental health in the era of COVID‐19

Deborah m. weisbrot.

1 Department of Psychiatry, Renaissance School of Medicine, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook NY, USA

2 Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, College of Education and Human Development, University of Nevada, Reno NV, USA

The COVID‐19 pandemic has highlighted existing gaps in school‐based mental health services and created new and urgent needs to address student mental health. Evidence from early in the pandemic already suggests that preexisting educational and mental health disparities have increased under the stress of the current health crisis. School mental health professionals are essential to help address anxiety, to promote social adjustment in the 'new normal', and to address trauma, grief, and loss. Schools will also need to creatively support teachers during this unprecedented time. Such efforts will require adequate funding and advocacy for the inclusion of school‐based mental health supports within governmental COVID‐19 aid packages.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists are taught from day 1 of training to always place the child’s best interest first. However, children can only do well when their caregivers and communities are similarly well supported. In considering the complex challenges of the COVID‐19 crisis, the best interests of children can only be met by simultaneously considering the best interests of parents, families, teachers, and school staff.

As schools open, in whatever shape or form, mental health practitioners who work in schools will be busier than ever. Even before this COVID‐19 apocalypse began, schools were already ill equipped to meet students’ mental health needs. It has been estimated that more than seven million children in the United States have a mental health disorder; less than half of those diagnosed actually receive treatment, and of those who do receive treatment, over 75% receive this treatment at schools (McKay, Lynn, & Bannon, 2005 ; Merikangas et al., 2011 ). Whether schools open, stay closed, or work semivirtually, the existing challenges will multiply and vary according to the specific solutions developed. Just as hospitals faced a crisis when the pandemic began, now school administrators, families, students, and school staff face similar distress, uncertainty, and confusion about how to return to school given the new realities of COVID‐19. The solutions will necessarily vary by community, level of COVID infection, school size, and resources. Surprisingly, in all that has been written about returning to school, very little has been targeted toward meeting the mental health needs of students, teachers, and other school staff.

Mental health contributes to overall health, and students must be healthy enough to learn. We know our children should return to school, but to do that they need a safe, secure, and supportive learning environment with professionals who also feel safe and cared about. If the stress and illness burden is not too great, we hope that the resilience of youth will prevail. However, those children already burdened by mental health challenges may suffer more. Mental health and educational disparities will widen the pandemic’s negative impact in marginalized and under‐resourced communities. Evidence from two U.S. national surveys conducted by the Edweek Research Center in Spring of 2020 already confirm vast disparities, with schools located in lower socioeconomic communities less able to provide access to technology, to reach all students, or to provide 'live' distance learning instruction (Herold B, April 2020 ). Fairness and equity require that those bearing a disproportionate impact of the pandemic be provided sufficient access to equipment, services, and technology, and mental health support to address systemic cultural disadvantages in education and mental health worsened by COVID‐19.

Decisions related to school reopening must be data‐driven, relying on the best available medical understanding and public health guidance. In addition, different populations, such as children receiving special education, children in foster care, or non‐English‐language learners, may require approaches that differ from the general approach. Children at different developmental stages will have specific needs. What is good for some students and their families will not necessarily be good for others.

Multiple potential mental health consequences arise from school closures related to COVID‐19. Lost learning opportunities during school closures result in possible regression of educational and emotional coping skills, particularly in children with special education needs. For some children, the pandemic may produce heightened fear, anxiety, and depression, leading to further difficulty in emotion regulation and behavior, learning, and interpersonal relationships. The fears of school staff will also need to be recognized and discussed, as these will impact the students in their care.

School mental health professionals will be essential in helping to shape messages to students and families about school re‐entry, to address anxiety, to promote social adjustment to the 'new normal', and to address other unanticipated mental health concerns that are sure to arise during this national trauma experience. Teachers and school personnel should receive training on how to talk with and support children during a pandemic. Intentional strategies to help students adapt to new school environments should be developed. Schools will also need to creatively support teachers in their efforts during this unprecedented time. Addressing the grief of those who have suffered loss will also be critical. Fortunately, many great resources to assist in this effort have already been developed. For example, the National Center for School Mental Health ( http://www.schoolmentalhealth.org/COVID‐19/ ) and the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network ( https://mhttcnetwork.org/centers/global‐mhttc/responding‐covid‐19‐school‐mental‐health‐resources ) have both developed school mental health resource pages for dealing with COVID‐19.

It is hard to imagine how children can return to school safely without providing additional (and substantial) financial support. Added to the costs of the physical needs created by the pandemic will be the increased costs necessary to bolster a full continuum of educational AND mental health supports. Funding of school‐based mental health supports will be necessary for prevention of staff burnout and trauma effects, as well as early identification and intervention of mental health problems in the increased numbers of students at high risk for adverse outcomes.

Child mental health organizations should be advocating to ensure that mental health programs, specifically children’s mental health, are included in governmental aid packages. Solidarity with other mental health organizations is essential to ensure that such provisions are included in any governmental COVID‐19 relief packages. Provisions should include increasing funding for existing and new mental health programs. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Schools Committee, which cowrote this editorial, is especially concerned with ensuring that the best information on school mental health is available as it is developed. Toward that end, a recently published 'Children and Schools Resource Center' is available on the AACAP website: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Centers/Schools_Resource_Center/Home.aspx .

As child and adolescent psychiatrists, mental health is definitely 'our lane'. Every student, every family, and every school staff member will have a COVID‐19 story. We need to do our best to hear them all and respond when help is needed.

Ethical approval

No ethical approval was required for this article.


D.M.W. receives royalties from Cambridge University Press for co‐editing two textbooks. E.R. receives grant funding from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau/Health Resources and Services Administration and from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health; she also receives funding from the Washoe County School District for school consultation. The authors have declared that they have no competing or potential conflicts of interest.

  • Herold, B. (2020). “ The Disparities in Remote Learning Under Coronavirus (in Charts) ”, April 10, 2020, Education Week.
  • McKay, M.M. , Lynn, C.J. , & Bannon, W.M. (2005). Understanding inner city child mental health need and trauma exposure: implications for preparing urban service providers . American Journal of Orthopsychiatry , 75 , 201–210. [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]
  • Merikangas, K.R. , He, J.P. , Burstein, M. , Swendsen, J. , Avenevoli, S. , Case, B. , … & Olfson, M. (2011). Service utilization for lifetime mental disorders in US adolescents: Results of the National Comorbidity Survey‐Adolescent Supplement (NCS‐A) . Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry , 50 , 32–45. [ PMC free article ] [ PubMed ] [ Google Scholar ]


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Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Mental health is more than the absence of a mental illness—it’s essential to your overall health and quality of life. Self-care can play a role in maintaining your mental health and help support your treatment and recovery if you have a mental illness.

About Self-Care

Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.

Here are some tips to help you get started with self-care:

  • Get regular exercise.  Just 30 minutes of walking every day can help boost your mood and improve your health. Small amounts of exercise add up, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes at one time.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. A balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. Also, limit caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks or coffee.
  • Make sleep a priority . Stick to a schedule, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Blue light from devices and screens can make it harder to fall asleep, so reduce blue light exposure from your phone or computer before bedtime.
  • Try a relaxing activity.  Explore relaxation or wellness programs or apps, which may incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy activities you enjoy such as journaling.
  • Set goals and priorities.  Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.
  • Focus on positivity . Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
  • Stay connected.  Reach out to your friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.

Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. In addition, although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding what causes or triggers your mild symptoms and what coping techniques work for you can help manage your mental health.

For other ideas for healthy practices for your mind, body, surroundings, and relationships, see the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Wellness Toolkits  .

When to Seek Professional Help

Seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted 2 weeks or more, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
  • Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities

Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a mental health professional if needed. If you don’t know where to start, read the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Tips for Talking With a Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health . Learn more about how to get help or find a provider on the NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage .

What to Do in a Crisis

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline   at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org   . This service is confidential, free, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In life-threatening situations, call 911. 

For additional information about suicide prevention, please see NIMH’s Suicide Prevention webpage .

Featured Videos

NIMH Expert Discusses Managing Stress & Anxiety:  Learn coping techniques to help maintain your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and when to get professional help.

GREAT: Helpful Practices to Manage Stress and Anxiety:  Learn about helpful practices to manage stress and anxiety. GREAT was developed by Dr. Krystal Lewis, a licensed clinical psychologist at NIMH.

Getting to Know Your Brain: Dealing with Stress:  Test your knowledge about stress and the brain. Also learn how to create and use a “ stress catcher ” to practice strategies to deal with stress.

Guided Visualization: Dealing with Stress:  Learn how the brain handles stress and practice a guided visualization activity.

Mental Health Minute: Stress and Anxiety in Adolescents: Got 60 seconds? Take a mental health minute to learn about stress and anxiety in adolescents.

Featured Fact Sheets

My Mental Health

Federal Resources

  • NIH Emotional Wellness Toolkit   : This NIH toolkit provides six strategies for improving your emotional health.
  • NIH Social Wellness Toolkit   : This NIH toolkit provides six strategies for improving your social health.
  • MedlinePlus: How to Improve Mental Health   : MedlinePlus provides health information and tips for improving your mental health.
  • CDC: Coping With Stress   : CDC provides information on how to cope with stress.

Other Resources

Note: This list of non-federal resources is provided for informational purposes only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute an endorsement by NIMH, NIH, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or the U.S. government.

  • DBSA Wellness Toolbox   (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
  • Live Your Life Well   (Mental Health America)
  • Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health   (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Last Reviewed: December 2022

Unless otherwise specified, the information on our website and in our publications is in the public domain and may be reused or copied without permission. However, you may not reuse or copy images. Please cite the National Institute of Mental Health as the source. Read our copyright policy to learn more about our guidelines for reusing NIMH content.

Expository Essay

Expository Essay About Mental Health

Caleb S.

Learn to Write Expository Essay About Mental Health - Examples & Tips

Published on: Jan 12, 2023

Last updated on: Nov 15, 2023

expository essay about mental health

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Do you need to write an expository essay about mental health but don't know how to begin?

Essays about mental health are common for students of psychology, sociology, and health care. However, other students also get to write such essays to raise awareness about this important issue.

Writing about mental health can help raise awareness and educate others about the importance of mental health. It can also provide a platform for you to express your thoughts, feelings, and experiences on the subject.

In this blog post, we will discuss what is an expository essay, provide examples, and outline the steps for writing one.   So read on to learn more about how to write an expository essay on mental health.

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What is an Expository Essay About Mental Health?

An expository essay is a type of academic writing that provides an explanation, description, or argument about a certain topic. It seeks to explain and clarify the subject matter for the readers.

The goal of this type of essay is not to share your opinion or persuade the readers, but rather to inform them.

An expository essay on mental health aims to discuss and inform about different aspects of mental health.

The term mental health can refer to various aspects, such as mental health issues, psychological resilience, emotional health, etc. So, the scope of an expository essay on mental health is quite broad depending on your topic.

Here is a video that explains what mental health means in simple words:

Essay About Mental Health Examples

If you are wondering what a good essay about mental health issues looks like, here are a few example essays to help you get started:

Expository Essay About Social Media And Mental Health

Expository Essay Example About Depression

Expository Essay About Mental Health Awareness

Importance of Mental Health Essay Example

Expository Essay About Mental Health Of Students

Need more expository writing samples? Check out our expository essay examples blog!

Expository Essay Topics About Mental Illness

Here is a list of topics about mental health to help you start.

  • How does mental health affect physical health in children and adolescents?
  • The role of stigma in mental health problems.
  • What are the basic principles of positive psychology?
  • How are physical & emotional health related?
  • How can mindfulness improve mental health condition?
  • What is the importance of world mental health day?
  • Technology's impact on modern mental health issues.
  • Understanding trauma-informed care and its importance.
  • The role of the media in creating stereotypes about mental health issues.
  • How do different cultures view mental health disorders?
  • Common misconceptions about mental health in the United States.

You can choose one of these topics, to begin with. Moreover, these topics will help you brainstorm your own topic as well.

You can check out our expository essay topics blog for a list of creative topic ideas.

How To Write an Essay About Mental Health

Now that you know what an expository essay on mental health is and have some topics to choose from, it’s time to start writing.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Choose Your Topic:

Brainstorm some ideas related to mental health. Try to pick a topic that interests you so that researching and writing about it will be easier for you. 

Choosing a topic that is narrow enough to be covered within the word limit is also important. Moreover, make sure that the topic is not too complex for you to explain.

2. Conduct Research:

Once you have chosen your topic, it’s time to conduct extensive research.

A good expository essay should include facts, evidence, and other supporting information from reliable sources like journals, books, and articles. Make sure that you cite your sources properly.

3. Outline the Essay:

An outline will help you organize your ideas and create a clear structure for your essay. It is also an important step to ensure that all the necessary information is included in the essay.

In an expository essay outline , you should include the main points you want to discuss. Additionally, it should include the supporting evidence and arguments you gathered during the research.

4. Write the Introduction:

The introduction is the first part of your essay. It should include a hook to grab the reader’s attention and introduce the topic. Additionally, you should provide a brief overview of what will be discussed in the essay.

Finally, you should end your  mental illness essay introduction with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a sentence that states the main idea of your essay.

5. Write the Body Paragraphs:

The body paragraphs are where you explain and expand on your main points. Each paragraph should include evidence to support your claims and a brief explanation of how the evidence is related to the topic.

Remember that each body paragraph should focus on one main point and be organized in a logical manner.

6. Write the Conclusion:

The conclusion is where you restate the thesis statement and summarize the main points of the essay. Additionally, you should provide a brief explanation of how these points support your thesis statement.

Finally, end your conclusion with a call to action or an insightful thought that encourages readers to learn more about mental health.

7. Edit and Proofread:

Once you are done writing the essay, it’s important to go through each sentence and look for mistakes. 

Make sure that all grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors are corrected. Additionally, make sure that the essay is well-structured and flows logically from one point to another.

Editing and proofreading can help you improve the quality of your work and ensure that all necessary information is included.

Following these steps will help you write a clear and well-researched expository essay on mental health.

Tips for Writing a Mental Health Essay

Writing about mental health requires more than a basic understanding of the subject. It is a sensitive and emerging topic, and new research is being produced every day. So, you need to be careful while proceeding with your essay.

Here are a few tips that can help you write a worthwhile essay on mental health:

  • Get Involved

Mental health essays often benefit greatly when written with personal insight or experience.

If you have any personal life experiences related to mental health, incorporate them into your essay to add more depth. Make your essay relatable to people’s daily life. 

  • Focus on Solutions 

When discussing a sensitive topic like mental health it’s important to focus on the solutions.

Consider suggesting ways people can manage their own mental wellness or outlining how families can support each other during difficult times.

  • Be Empathetic

While writing your essay try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes so that you present the information in a kind and sympathetic manner. 

For many people, mental problems are a part of life. So avoid any language that could potentially be offensive or insensitive towards those who struggle with mental illness.

If you or someone you know is going through a rough time, feeling depressed, or thinking about self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit its website here. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

Wrapping it up,

Mental health is a complex and important issue, and writing an essay on it requires proper research, understanding, empathy, and focus. By following these steps and tips, you can write an effective essay on mental health that will be well-received by your readers.

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Why is Mental Health Important?

A woman surrounded by plants, meditating with her eyes closed and hands over her chest

(Note: This article discusses suicide and other serious issues pertaining to mental health.)

Whether through a minor bump in your journey or a full-blown crisis, you may have struggled with your mental health in some capacity in the last few years. Faced with a seemingly endless onslaught of bad news on top of life’s usual challenges, it can be difficult to prioritize yourself while pursuing educational and professional goals. Focusing on your mental health is perhaps the most powerful step you can take to improve your overall quality of life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 in 5 adults now lives with a moderate to severe mental health condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further notes that over 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with mental illness in their lifetime. But what exactly is mental health, and why is it so important?

What is Mental Health?

Dr. Darleen Dempster with the text Dr. Darleen Dempster

“When in a state of good mental health, a person has a general positive outlook, can accomplish daily tasks, maintain relationships and engage in meaningful recreation,” said Dr. Darleen Dempster , a Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) clinical faculty member in the clinical mental health counseling program . “This includes a sense of balance and empowerment to set boundaries and address life and work goals, step by step.”

In addition to the impact that mental health has on your day-to-day life, serious mental health issues can affect your relationships, career, education and long-term goals. As rates of mental illness increase worldwide, addressing your mental health challenges as they arise can change —or even save — your life.

Why is Mental Health Important for Students?

The World Heath Organization (WHO) reports a sharp rise in the number of people experiencing mental illness in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating mental health problems throughout the world. For students, it is more important than ever to address your mental health issues to stay mentally healthy and keep up with your educational and personal goals.

Even before the pandemic, mental health was a prominent concern for students. In 2019, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) noted that many students reported feeling exhausted, lonely and overwhelmed, among other symptoms and difficulties ( NCHA PDF Source ). Of the surveyed students, 20.2% reported experiencing depression and 27.8% reported experiencing anxiety that affected their studies in the preceding year.

“College can be a stressful time as you manage academic demands on top of other life demands,” Dempster said. “However, just as many students can learn to be successful academically, you can also learn to manage and improve mental health outcomes, including managing stress.”

Ways to Cope with Stress

Stress management can be a vital aspect of student success, especially for busy students who may also be working or caring for others. Dempster and the CDC recommend several methods to help manage stress:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Avoidance of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks
  • Cultivating healthy relationships
  • Eating well
  • Meditation, breathing exercises and other self-care activities

“At times, it is necessary also to set boundaries, to communicate needs, to be flexible to changing circumstances and to let go of perfectionistic standards,” Dempster said. “There should be no shame in seeking out mental health care as needed, just as one would not feel shame in seeking medical care for a persistent medical issue.”

Some colleges have free, real-time mental health services for students—for example, students at SNHU can access the school’s HelpU program. If you are a student struggling with mental health, look into what resources are available through your school.

How is Mental Health Connected to Physical Health?

The NIMH reports that some mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can cause physical symptoms that are otherwise unexplained. The CDC also reports that mental illness can increase the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease and has recognized that severe mental illness can increase the likelihood of a person becoming seriously ill after contracting COVID-19. At the same time, chronic physical health issues can also contribute to mental health issues.

“Factors like proper diet, sleep and exercise can positively impact our mental health. Conversely, lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can impede our ability to manage stress and life’s demands,” Dempster said. “Sometimes mental health symptoms can lead to somatic symptoms due to tension, worrisome thoughts or other reactions. Therefore, there is a circular loop between mental and physical symptoms.”

What Are Examples of Mental Health Problems?

Mental health problems can affect your life in various ways, depending upon the issue or disorder. The following are examples of different mental health problems and their corresponding challenges and symptoms.

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety disorders are a leading mental health issue globally, and the NIMH approximates that almost 1 in 3 people will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Symptoms of anxiety can range from tenseness or nervousness to panic attacks and physical illness. Anxiety can refer to generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, specific phobias and other anxiety-based disorders.

Depression is another common disorder with the capacity to severely impact a person’s life, according to NIMH. Symptoms typically include persistent sadness, emptiness, irritability, impaired motivation, guilt or feelings of low self-worth. People with depression also may have difficulties focusing, aches, pains, digestive issues or changes in their sleep and eating habits.

Some of the most serious symptoms of depression are suicidal thoughts and actions. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States overall—yet it is the 2nd leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10-14 and 24-34 and the 3rd leading cause of death for Americans 15-24 years old, per the NIMH. The CDC reports that suicide rates rose 30% between 2000 and 2020.

Trauma and Addiction

The psychological impact of a traumatic event or experience can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, unwanted memories, nightmares and panic attacks. Although the disorder is often associated with war veterans, a wide variety of traumatic experiences can lead to PTSD, like assault, abuse, serious accidents and loss.

Addiction is another mental health concern that has been on the rise in recent years, with drug overdose deaths having rapidly increased since the 1990s according to the CDC. Alcohol is the most abused substance, with 5.3% of deaths worldwide attributed to alcohol consumption, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Addiction is a complex disease that many are only able to overcome with professional help.

Other Disorders

Psychotic disorders are among the most stigmatized in our society, which only serves to further alienate people living with psychosis and seeking treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Psychosis is defined as a disconnect from reality by way of auditory/visual hallucinations, disorganized thinking or delusions. Some psychotic disorders include schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder . Despite misconceptions regarding psychosis and violence, the World Psychiatry Journal notes that experiencers of psychosis are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

Other common psychiatric disorders include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, personality disorders like borderline personality disorder, and mood disorders like bipolar disorder . Each mental health disorder has its own set of challenges—and its own set of treatments.

What Are Warning Signs and Risk Factors of Mental Illness?

Some mental illnesses may be hereditary, while others are developed. Dempster notes a variety of warning signs that signal mental health issues as well as additional risk factors that can lead to mental health problems.

Some warning signs of mental illness are:

  • Appetite changes
  • Disruption of sleep
  • Engaging in risky behaviors (self-harm, sexual acting out, disordered eating or other compulsive behaviors)
  • Mental distress (worrisome thoughts, tension, insecurity)
  • Negative impacts on relationships (isolating, arguing, etc.)
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

Other risk factors of mental illness include:

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Past or present trauma
  • Present or past experiences of being abused or assaulted
  • Sudden loss

If you are experiencing warning signs of mental illness, consider reaching out to a professional for help. If someone you know is struggling with any of these symptoms, Dempster recommends the “QPR” approach.

“A great way to help a loved one into care is to remember the acronym QPR, which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer,” Dempster said. “ Question : Directly ask the individual you are concerned about how they are doing, sharing your care and concern. Persuade: Talk to the person about the benefits of seeking out care with a mental health professional who can provide support and resources to address overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Refer: Support the individual in seeking out care by helping them to find available care, helping them to make an appointment or even taking them to the appointment.”

What Mental Health Treatments and Resources Are Available?

A variety of treatment options exist for different mental health issues. “There are times that some mental health problems can be treated by increasing self-care, accessing one’s support system and by careful problem-solving and communication,” Dempster said. “However, there are other times that professional mental health care, including therapy, medication or some other form of treatment offered by a professional can help to address mental health problems much more expediently through evidence-based methods.”

Many patients visit multiple mental health providers–for example, seeing a psychiatrist regarding medications and a therapist for more frequent counseling sessions. Consult the Mayo Clinic’s guide to finding a mental health provider , and reach out to your health insurance provider to find mental health services near you. You can also use Psychology Today’s expansive directory to help locate a provider in your area, and Findtreatment.gov offers a substance abuse treatment locator tool. For serious mental health concerns, The National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an early serious mental health treatment locator tool to find treatment centers in the United States.

“Historically, there has been a stigma with seeking mental health care that is not evident in seeking care for physical problems, and this stigma prolonged the suffering of many needlessly and has even cost lives,” Dempster said. “Seeking out care for mental health concerns is a sign of strength and there is robust evidence that demonstrates that mental health care is effective.”

If you or someone you know needs help now, consult these resources or contact a professional mental health provider. In the event of an emergency, please call 911.

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline : 988
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration : 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
  • Veterans Crisis Line
  • National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

Mars Girolimon '21 is a writer and student at Southern New Hampshire University, pursuing a master's in English and creative writing. Connect with them on LinkedIn .

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About Mental Health

  • Mental Health Basics
  • Types of Mental Illness

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What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. 1 Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

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Why is mental health important for overall health?

Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.  For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes , heart disease , and stroke. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness. 2

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Can your mental health change over time?

Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors.  When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours, caring for a relative, or experiencing economic hardship, they may experience poor mental health.

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How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

  • More than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness.
  • Over 1 in 5 youth (ages 13-18) either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness. 5
  • About 1 in 25 U.S. adults lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. 6

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What causes mental illness?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences , such as trauma or a history of abuse (for example, child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.)
  • Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes
  • Biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Having feelings of loneliness or isolation

People can experience different types of mental illnesses or disorders, and they can often occur at the same time. Mental illnesses can occur over a short period of time or be episodic. This means that the mental illness comes and goes with discrete beginnings and ends. Mental illness can also be ongoing or long-lasting.

There are more than 200 types of mental illness. Some of the main types of mental illness and disorders are listed here .

  • Strengthening Mental Health Promotion . Fact sheet no. 220. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
  • Chronic Illness & Mental Health . Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. 2015.
  • Kessler RC, Angermeyer M, Anthony JC, et al. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry. 2007;6(3):168-176.
  • Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2016.
  • Merikangas KR, He J, Burstein M, et al. Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2010;49(10):980-989. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2010.05.017.
  • Health & Education Statistics . Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health. National Institutes of Health. 2016.
  • Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of Twelve-month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of general psychiatry. 2005;62(6):617-627. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.617.Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD.
  • Rui P, Hing E, Okeyode T.  National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2014 State and National Summary Tables. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014.
  • Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) . Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015.
  • Insel, T.R. Assessing the Economic Costs of Serious Mental Illness. Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;165(6):663-5. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08030366.
  • HCUP Facts and Figures: Statistics on Hospital-based Care in the United States, 2009. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2009.
  • Reeves, WC et al. CDC Report: Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011;60(03);1-32.
  • Parks, J., et al. Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Council. 2006.

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Want to Believe in Yourself? ‘Mattering’ Is Key.

This overlooked concept has been linked to better relationships — with oneself and others.

An illustration of a person holding up another person's legs on a tightrope. The second person is holding up the legs of another person above. The background is a blue sky with white clouds.

By Gail Cornwall

Gordon Flett came across the term “mattering” as a psychology graduate student. Sitting at his desk in 1987, poring over a textbook, “I immediately knew what mattering was,” he said.

He remembered visiting his grandmother during the summer as a child and taking trips to the insulation plant where she managed the cafeteria. She hung on his every word, and her co-workers treated him like royalty. Recalling the experience, he could almost taste the Jell-O and chocolate milk.

A few years later, the concept landed even closer to home. He was struggling to find research subjects for his master’s thesis and panic was rising. His mother, who lived nearby, was also facing a difficult moment; her marriage was falling apart.

Mary Flett decided to help her son. She became known in her community as “the lady on the bike,” pedaling to baseball and soccer fields to recruit young participants for his study.

“She got the boost she needed in terms of mattering by carving out a new meaningful role,” said Dr. Flett, who published the resulting paper in a prestigious journal. “I also got a reminder of my value at a time when I needed it.”

Dr. Flett, now a professor at York University and the author of “The Psychology of Mattering,” is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject. He and other experts agree that a sense of mattering is necessary for human flourishing, and while some factors are out of our control, there are steps, both big and small, that everyone can take to enhance it.

What mattering means

Mattering is “a core, universal human need,” a necessary component for well-being, Dr. Flett said. But it’s tricky to define, he added, because people sometimes confuse it with belonging, self-esteem and social connection .

Mattering involves “more than feeling like you belong in a group,” he explained; it’s also being “missed by people in that group if you weren’t there.” When it comes to self-esteem, you can like yourself and feel capable, Dr. Flett said, but “you still won’t be a happy person if no one notices you when you enter a room.”

To matter, people must feel valued — heard, appreciated and cared for — and they must feel like they add value in ways that make them feel capable, important and trusted, said Isaac Prilleltensky, a professor at the University of Miami and a co-author of “How People Matter.” It’s a two-part definition: feeling valued and adding value.

Research suggests that people who feel like they matter experience more self-compassion, relationship satisfaction, and greater belief in their capacity to achieve their goals , while lack of mattering is associated with burnout, self-criticism, anxiety, depression, aggression and increased risk of suicide.

How do you know where you fall on the scale? Start, Dr. Prilleltensky said, by asking yourself a few questions: Do you feel valued in your relationships? At work (both paid and unpaid)? In your community? Do you matter to yourself, possessing a sense that you’re worthy regardless of what you accomplish or how you look?

Then ask whether you add value in each of those four areas. Do you feel like a good partner or friend? Do you feel competent at work? Do those outside your immediate circle rely on you for anything? Is self-care a reality or a pipe dream?

The key, Dr. Prilleltensky said, is to aim for a sense of balance across both parts of the definition and all areas of your life. (Think, for instance, of the workaholic who is indispensable at the office but doesn’t invest enough time at home to feel valuable there.) These questions can help you notice where you need to make changes.

How to increase your sense of mattering

Wherever you are on the spectrum, “mattering is malleable,” Dr. Flett said. We can’t change how we were raised or whether we’ve experienced discrimination, exclusion and unfair treatment — all of which can have a heavy impact on our sense of mattering — but there are steps that can change how we perceive our value.

Identify your strengths. Think about a time when you felt useful, Dr. Prilleltensky said. Or pinpoint areas where you’re already adding value and figure out how you can kick it up a notch.

While people can be good at many things, true strengths are things that we’re good at, that we choose to do and that make us feel good while we’re doing them, said Lea Waters, a professor of positive psychology at the University of Melbourne and the author of “The Strength Switch.” If all three components are not in place, Dr. Waters said, they aren’t strengths by positive psychologists’ definition.

Let’s say you’re great at spreadsheets, socializing and event planning. The P.T.A. nominates you as fund-raising chair but running an auction sounds as pleasurable as having a root canal. That is not a role that plays to your strengths, Dr. Waters said. But if you show up early to every meeting because you enjoy chatting with other parents and guardians, leading the welcome committee is likely to make you feel like you’re adding value.

Assess your work life. Feeling a sense of significance at work has been tied to lower absenteeism, more readiness to share ideas, more engaged employees and better employee-manager relationships, Dr. Prilleltensky said. So it’s worthwhile to figure out which aspects of your job make you feel capable and in control. A young lawyer, for instance, might split her time between drafting court briefs — an energizing task where her creativity helps — and taking depositions, which leaves her feeling drained and clumsy. With this information, she might request more opportunities to draft briefs to increase a sense that she’s adding value.

But don’t forget to interrogate how valued you are, too. Are you treated fairly? Do your co-workers value your point of view? Was your request for a promotion taken seriously? These questions can help you assess whether you’re valued in the workplace, but more important, they can determine whether you feel valued.

If work is unrewarding, you can try to encourage changes or consider leaving. A career pivot is a big disruption, one that’s not available to everyone, Dr. Prilleltensky said, but a prolonged sense of not being valued can lead to burnout, depression and ineffectiveness.

Adjust your relationships. In “How People Matter,” Dr. Prilleltensky and his co-author (and wife), Ora Prilleltensky, recommend telling people why and how much you appreciate them. Try something specific like, “It meant a lot to me that you took out the trash before I got home because you realized I’d be tired from work.”

You can also add value in relationships by asking your loved ones at least one open-ended question every time you see them. Doing so helps you better understand their perspectives, and it communicates that you value them enough to care about their experiences.

Sometimes mattering requires “making sure you only engage in relationships with people who reflect that you matter back to you,” said Marisa Franco, the author of “Platonic” and an assistant clinical professor in the University Honors program at the University of Maryland. If you have expressed your needs and still don’t feel valued, walk away, she said.

Volunteer your time. Fighting for a cause is one path to mattering , Dr. Prilleltensky said, though “you don’t need to be Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King.” Make a sandwich for someone experiencing homelessness, for example, or attend an event hosted by an organization you believe in. Just getting started begets the kind of satisfaction and recognition that makes you feel valued, he said.

Express grievances and practice self-compassion. We often blame ourselves when we aren’t valued, Dr. Flett said. But far too often, circumstances beyond our control have made us believe we don’t matter. Perhaps you grew up feeling like you were important to one parent but not the other, or you noticed that teachers expected the worst of children who looked like you. People who have marginalized identities are often made to feel less significant than others.

But two things can be true at once: There are aspects of mattering that you can’t change without institutional and structural overhauls, and you can take action to increase your sense of well-being, Dr. Prilleltensky said. It often starts with recognizing that you’ve been treated unfairly, according to Dr. Flett.

This is what inspired T’áncháy Redvers, a queer television writer and performer, to become a co-founder of We Matter , an organization that aims to teach Indigenous youth about how “systemic and structural forces” make it more difficult to feel valued, and that shares stories of Indigenous people surmounting those forces. Its message is one of hope: Look at how people like you have added and asserted value.

It’s also a message of self-compassion. Just as mattering is a universal human need, having it go unmet is a common part of being alive, Dr. Franco said. So, when possible, eschew self-judgment and remind yourself that you’re not alone, she said. When you think “I don’t matter,” try not to over-identify with the thought; instead, notice and gently challenge the idea, she said. You might say: “I’m having the thought that I don’t matter, but I remember the cashier at the grocery store smiling when I asked about her grandson on Tuesday.”

From there you might find a way forward that underscores how much you matter, just like Dr. Flett’s mother did when she helped him with his research. Instead of ruminating over why her husband no longer valued her or her decision to leave the marriage, Mary Flett became “the lady on the bike” — who knew she mattered quite a bit.

Gail Cornwall is a freelance writer in San Francisco, covering psychology, education and child development, among other topics.


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Introduction: How Mental Health Matters

Anne E. Becker is the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Professor of Psychiatry, and Dean for Clinical and Academic Affairs at Harvard Medical School. She is the author of Body, Self, and Society: The View from Fiji (1995), coeditor of Global Mental Health Training and Practice: An Introductory Framework (with Bibhav Acharya, 2024), and serves on the editorial boards of Anthropology & Medicine and Harvard Review of Psychiatry .

Giuseppe Raviola is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Associate Director of the Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Director of Mental Health for the international health care delivery organization Partners In Health. He has published in journals such as The Lancet, Global Mental Health , and Psychiatric Services .

Arthur Kleinman , a Fellow of the American Academy since 1992, is the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, and Professor of Medical Anthropology in Global Health and Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of twelve books, including The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor (2019), A Passion for Society: How We Think about Human Suffering (with Iain Wilkinson, 2016), and Rethinking Psychiatry: From Cultural Category to Personal Experience (1988).

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Anne E. Becker , Giuseppe Raviola , Arthur Kleinman; Introduction: How Mental Health Matters. Daedalus 2023; 152 (4): 8–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/daed_e_02029

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The underpinnings of today's mental health crisis include both social structural inequities and neurobiological vulnerabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded and escalated a long-standing problem, rendering the mental health crisis and its dangerous consequences visible and exigent. We now possess a clearer and more nuanced understanding of the broken mental health care system and its serious inadequacies, as well as its potential for effective caregiving. The professional forms of knowledge and practice are paralleled by an even more substantial system of care involving families, networks, communities, and, of course, those living with mental health conditions themselves. Even when delivered by community care workers, psychotherapy can be as effective as somatic treatments for some mental health conditions. Harm reduction and other public health approaches offer means of preventing or mitigating the disastrous human toll of the substance use disorder epidemic. Social technology offers new opportunities for enhancing mental health and well-being. With these informal systems alongside standardized health care systems, the future could realize a mental health care system with much greater potential to avert the worst harms and offer effective care to many more.

Everyone finally seems to get it now. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it so very clear and convincing: we are all vulnerable to mental distress. The types may be diverse-depression, anxiety, panic, trauma, eating disorders, psychosis-but the choke, the sting, the fear, the psychic pain and chaos are terribly real and very disabling, and the residual effect of the pandemic on mental health has been enormous. For the time being, even the outright discrimination and subtler forms of stigma attached to mental illness have subsided enough to empower more and more of us to disclose our inner struggles and trace their connection to our highly stressed worlds. In turn, we learn that there are effective therapies and competent practitioners, only not enough of them. And the systems of care are just as problem-plagued, costly, and egregiously inadequate as the rest of health care. 1

In high-, middle-, and low-income countries alike, half of the world's population will develop a mental illness over the course of their lives. Worldwide, depression is among the most disabling health conditions. 2 Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia are among the costliest health problems to treat. 3 War, migration, and the intersection of violence and poverty, especially as they affect women and children, create a huge toll of trauma. As does loneliness for both physical and psychic pain, as well as social media for adolescent anxieties. The epidemic of substance abuse killed more than one hundred thousand Americans in 2021 through overdose deaths, representing a nearly 29 percent increase from the prior year. 4 The intersecting epidemic of suicide may again be worsening. 5 The syndemic of domestic, street, and community violence also is neither controlled nor lessening. Climate change has brought with it the growth of climate anxiety-along with the traumatic consequences of extreme weather events-as yet another mental health consequence of the increasing recognition of how dangerous and uncertain our times are. Yet mental illness, which contributes significantly to suicide, has been repeatedly shown by researchers not to be a significant cause of the mass murders that also beset America. Guns are. 6

So broken and failing are our health care services in the United States for the chronically mentally ill that, in actuality, it is on the streets of American cities, in our jails and prisons, in emergency rooms and primary care clinics where most of those with chronic psychosis are to be found. Deinstitutionalization has taken us from too many hospital beds for the mentally ill in the 1950s to far too few today, and it never was followed up with robust community services as intended and promised.

Globally, low- and middle-income nations spend less than 2 percent of their total health budgets on mental health care, despite epidemiological studies showing that mental health problems are among the largest contributors to the global burden of disease in their countries and among the top causes of disability. 7 Between 75 percent and 90 percent of people living with serious mental health problems in these underresourced countries do not receive a formal diagnosis or treatment. 8 For the past two decades, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a range of components of formal and informal community mental health services that can be built within and outside of clinical facilities. 9 For example, the WHO encourages providing a spectrum of mental health services, including general hospital services, specialty clinical care and support, and psychosocial rehabilitation and residential services, that extend care delivery to homes and public spaces in the communities where people live. 10

But what are the most useful ways of responding to the mental health crisis? Is it through medicalized mental health care systems? Or is it via the preventive and harm-reduction approaches of public health? Or do we need to separate out those problems that are better handled in families and communities from those requiring medical treatment? Indeed, is the medical model of psychiatry more availing for ordinary depression and anxiety disorder? Or is it more helpful to reimagine these conditions as responses to loss and other types of social adversity that require a different kind of societal response? Will technologies that strengthen tele-psychiatry remake the mental health care system? And as we seek to increase access to treatment-especially for the poor-what quality of care will they receive? Have the prioritization of commercial interests in health delivery and a solely economic language of mental health policy undermined quality care?

The essays in this issue of Dædalus do not provide definitive answers to these crucial questions. Rather, the authors seek to characterize the many facets of the contemporary reality of mental health in society. They present views of where we are, what works, what has failed, and what is most promising. They also draw on history to explain how we have gotten to where we are and to help us reimagine where we might head to create a more useful future state for mental health. We are told, in a variety of ways, how the basic science and clinical disciplines seeking to understand and respond to mental illness and its attendant suffering have fallen short. These deficits are apparent across the spaces of psychiatry, psychopharmacology, neuroscience, psychology, social work, public health, and a range of services in each of these areas. These essays direct our attention to where and how our current approaches have not gone far enough or have outright failed, what we can learn from these shortcomings, and how we can reenvisage paths toward improving mental health. With a particular focus on the social determinants of poor mental health, several of the authors make the important point that the clinical targets of intervention in mental health make up too narrow a scope to be effective in reducing the enormous burden of suffering. Across the essays in this issue, regardless of whether the authors examine the targets of intervention, therapeutic approaches and their mode of delivery, or focus on scale and location of delivery, they converge on the conclusion that mental health needs are urgent and will demand a more robust, extensive, and innovative range of responses than what is presently offered.

This collection is a serious rebuttal and rebuke to a great deal that is ineffective, myopic, and inadequate about the aspirationally allied fields dedicated to understanding mind, body, society, and their interface with mental health and well-being. Importantly, it also points to remedies and innovations that can retool these approaches and have potentially transformative impacts on mental health. Several of the essays contest the adequacy of biomedicine-and the scientists, other academics, and health professionals who operate within its logics-to frame the right questions and to respond to mental distress and suffering that are outcomes of historical and contemporary structural violence. They justifiably critique a narrow view of who is authorized to generate knowledge to respond to mental health needs, and ask whose perspectives, voices, and ways of knowing have been excluded. Among those who have been disregarded and historically marginalized are communities of those with relevant lived experience, whose exclusion not only replicates the dynamics of structural inequities, but also misses opportunities to integrate cultural knowledge germane to the repair of historical injustices and to the healing of collective harms that continue to perpetuate distress, suffering, and all the injuries of adversity.

We are experiencing a true crisis of care. Psychiatrist Thomas Insel and others have described this crisis convincingly as stemming from, among other deficiencies, a lack of capacity of the current mental health system, access to quality care, and social safety nets. With deinstitutionalization over the past half-century, there has been a 95 percent reduction in state mental health beds in the United States. This sequence of events and its fallout paved an unfortunate path to what has been, in effect, the criminalization of mental illness and the transformation of the criminal justice system as the de facto mental health system. 11 People living with serious mental illness are, moreover, among the most vulnerable in our society; on average, they experience a reduction in life expectancy of more than ten years. 12 And yet, there are a variety of proven and effective treatments available for treating mental disorders. These include not only medications, but psychological treatments, newer biological and neuromodulatory treatments, and rehabilitative interventions, such as assertive community treatment, supportive employment and academics, supportive housing, family psychoeducation, and clubhouse models of care. And despite a collection of effective interventions in the United States, with 21 percent of Americans experiencing a mental illness, over half of people living with a mental illness are not receiving care. 13 This is in a country with more than 40,000 psychiatrists, well over 100,000 psychologists and other therapists, and more than 700,000 social workers. The crisis of care is therefore also clearly a crisis of care delivery that requires strategic solutions to restructure the workforce and the way health care providers work.

A human rights approach is a key foundation for further needed change. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, is an international human rights treaty that serves as a cornerstone for the contemporary disability movement. 14 It has given voice to those who are among the most unheard and most stigmatized, and it has insisted on the protection and advancement of their rights. A more recent movement to integrate concepts of neurodiversity and neurodivergence for describing conditions of human cognition, such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia, represents an ongoing evolution toward greater demedicalization of supports for those living with these conditions. 15

It is notable that the structural barriers that exist to access safe, effective, quality mental health care are so much greater for people of color and other less advantaged communities, and that these barriers have been both compounded and revealed by COVID-19. And they remain unchanged in the transition to a post-pandemic period. The essays in this volume speak to this reality and to the need for new commitments to equity, cultural relevance, and structural competency in addressing it, and a future that will require placing a greater emphasis and priority on populations more at risk in the context of climate change and rapid social change. Mental health care needs to be reframed to better serve less advantaged communities. Mental health care delivery needs to be seen increasingly through the lens of diversity, social equity and justice, and decoloniality.

Taken together, these considerations are intended to inform our awareness, understanding, and attunement-our capacity to listen-to the emotional and social suffering of individuals living with a mental health condition. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted preexisting inequities in the availability of mental health services and raised awareness about the urgent need for functional and accessible systems of care delivery. 16 Global locations most affected by the pandemic also experienced the greatest increases in the prevalence of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, which disproportionally affect young people and women. 17 The United States saw increases in intimate partner violence, substance use, and the exacerbation and complications of preexisting medical and psychiatric problems-pandemics within the pandemic. COVID-19 ushered in a new era of “polycrisis,” which has been described as a cross-cutting, cascading set of global challenges that spans the effects of the pandemic and climate change (for example, droughts, floods, mega-storms, wildfires, and extreme heat and cold) and that, by extension, drives human migration and growing refugee emergencies, conflict over resources, and political instability. It is now an era defined by growing complexity and uncertainty. 18 The manifestations of these inequities have been increasingly identified as requiring urgent attention at local and global levels.

The order of the contributions to this issue of Dædalus pivots around Kay Redfield Jamison's account of the experience of mental health problems by individuals suffering from depression and bipolar disorder. 19 Her essay brings the reader into lives lived with mental distress and illness, including her own. At the level of the individual human being, ordinary mental illness every-where and at all times is anchored in inner pain and, in some cases, breakdown, and also places great pressure on the family, network, and entire community. The meanings and values associated with this core experience, including the experience of treatment, will, of course, represent cultural, class, caste, and community differences that affect the way symptoms (and healing) are expressed, and how their putative causes are understood. 20 Nonetheless, there is something abidingly noxious in the experience of mental illness that resists even greatly different historical eras and cultures from remaking these experiences any way their inhabitants might wish. This makes experiences of healing equally important in understanding how mental health is lived.

Anchored in such an appreciation of the emotional injury and breaking of the supports in the lives of real people, and how they experience healing, our contributors whose essays precede Jamison's offer population and societal examinations of mental health. These include the epidemiology of mental illness preceding, during, and following the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mental health and social disparities associated with poverty, racism, coloniality, and indigeneity, as well as their contributions to society-wide, and even global, morbidity and mortality. Substance use, gun violence, suicide, and mental disorders from depression to psychosis are depicted as epidemics in America today. And the precarious condition of America's broken mental health care systems is illustrated, as are failures in their reform. That sad and saddening societal reality becomes the basis for rethinking and reimagining what mental health care systems might be if they emphasized public health prevention and continuity of care over conventional clinical models, well-being over pathology, and policies about controlling guns, funding affordable housing, and changing the criminal justice approach to substance use over what we have in place now.

More specifically, Laura Sampson, Laura D. Kubzansky, and Karestan C. Koenen document how COVID-19 catapulted mental health into a societal priority owing to the overwhelming evidence of its widespread and devastating effects. 21 They also demonstrate how a population-based public health approach responds to the mental health crisis in ways that can add to the public good. Jeffrey W. Swanson and Mark L. Rosenberg show in necessary detail that while mental illness is a significant contributor to suicide, serious mental illness is not a major cause of gun violence. 22 That the latter requires much better gun-control policies is not likely to alter the politics of gun ownership and rights in America. But it should make the truth about how gun violence and policies intersect more convincing and harder to deny.

Helena Hansen, Kevin J. Gutierrez, and Saudi Garcia contend that the medical model of American psychiatry has relatively little to offer the crisis of substance use and abuse. 23 They argue that an effective response to this worsening mental health epidemic requires an entirely different approach than what is offered by the dominant medical and prison industrial complexes and, moreover, that addressing upstream causes such as poverty, racism, coloniality, and other sources of health and social inequalities is greatly needed. Their blueprint for a more adequate approach centers on harm reduction as a social movement for health justice and augmenting and crosslinking mental health services with more community-based programs. Jonathan M. Metzl reinforces their perspective with the shocking story of how schizophrenia became medicalized into a disorder of Black men, and how the field of psychiatry turned its back on the racist underpinnings of this extraordinary perversion of clinical reality. 24 Not surprisingly, like Hansen, Gutierrez, and Garcia, Metzl calls for a more circumscribed place for psychiatry in mental health care, as well as for much greater attention to the social structural (not just the cultural) forces that need to be addressed through societal change and greater public health engagement. Both essays show that a sociogenic model of mental health problems and solutions should play a much larger role in psychiatry and in the much broader mental health field.

Gary Belkin brings further support to this vision of repairing the inadequacies of prevailing practices for mental health care delivery with his dystopic account of the failure of a greatly ambitious mental health program in New York City despite its sponsorship by political leaders. 25 The problem here was not with the program's vision or its objective, which also aimed to address upstream causes, but rather with failed administration and governance, and the persistence of long-standing beliefs about the connection between violence and those experiencing serious mental illness. Sadly, this is not a one-off story in the mental health field.

Joseph P. Gone's essay is an account of why Indigenous historical trauma is a more effective and culturally congruent way of representing the devastating long-term effects of ethnocidal North American governmental policies toward Indigenous communities than is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-today's ubiquitous category for handling emotional and moral injury by the mental health professions. 26 Gone writes with outrage (that knowing readers may well share) about how PTSD, and the medicalized interventions it legitimates, pathologizes the individual victim and in doing so distracts from what Indigenous communities could do to produce fundamental change if provided with the necessary resources. He critiques this formulation for ignoring history and culture and for its lack of an interdisciplinary analysis. Turning away from pathologizing language to traditional idioms and methods for cultural revitalization and uplift hold, for him, a greater power for transformation.

All the essays that precede Jamison's regard mental health as a much wider and more multidisciplinary field than mental illness or psychiatry. For the authors, the problems of substance use, suicide, violence, and common mental disorders interdigitate with and result from the social world, history, and political economy, creating profound inequalities and destructive destinies. Theirs is also a population-based view. In contrast, the authors that follow Jamison pivot to address more highly focused questions about neurobiology, genetics, pharmacology, psychotherapy, social therapies, community-based health care delivery, and quality in mental health care.

Anne Harrington's history of the four decades of failure in biological research in psychiatry to come up with new and more effective medications (with fewer side effects) puts into question the very enterprise of psychopharmacological research. 27 With so much lack of success, why has academic psychiatry continued to prioritize biological research instead of research on psychotherapy, community care, social epidemiology, or caregiving more generally? Reading her trenchant account does not lead to an antipsychiatry conclusion, but to a rationale for rebuilding psychiatry's social, psychological, and clinical research, training, and education as part of a reassessment of its place in the broader mental health care system. Steven E. Hyman examines the same history that Harrington reviews, but from the more optimistic perspective of a medical geneticist who seeks to improve and develop the potential of large-scale genetic studies to illuminate complex polygenic influences on psychological processes and vulnerability to social determinants of disease. 28 He argues that, hampered by a lack of mechanistic understandings of psychiatric illness, previous therapeutic advances have been largely serendipitous or incremental. In contrast, advancements in genomic technologies and computational tools have opened new avenues for understanding causal mechanisms underlying polygenic mental disorders such as schizophrenia. These innovations, in turn, are likely to lead to evidence that can direct treatments, as in the rest of medicine, to target specific biological processes involved in the pathophysiology of disease-a goal long sought in the biomedical quest for an understanding of mental illness and its treatment.

Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield take yet another perspective on the social and biomedical aspects of mental health research and treatment. In their sociological reading of history, the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders abandoned the well-established distinction between normative experience and pathology in depression, which in the past had excluded bereavement for a close loved one and other significant losses in making the diagnosis of depressive disorders. 29 For the authors, episodes of depression owing to such serious social losses are acute, and naturally remit over time as precipitating circumstances resolve. In contrast, medically significant depressions may be more enduring and less responsive to changes in social circumstances. This then is a fundamental distinction between “normal” emotional variation, including depressed affect, in response to and even expected in the setting of social circumstances such as losses and other serious stressors, and pathological medical depressions, which require a very different kind of diagnostic formulation and approach to treatment. Intriguingly, social epidemiology in cardiology, oncology, and infectious disease seems to be moving in the reverse direction, implicating social context (and its structural sources) in health inequalities for biomedical disorders from tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS through diabetes, stroke, and heart failure.

Isaac R. Galatzer-Levy, Gabriel J. Aranovich, and Thomas R. Insel introduce the potentially very important role that digital technologies can play in mental health care. 30 They focus on three transformative applications: the use of sensors and artificial intelligence to provide more objective assessments of mental health problems, the development of telehealth services that increase access and convenience for patients and providers, and the creation of digital therapeutics from virtual reality to chatbots for delivering structured therapies. These technologies-these tech-savvy authors contend-can also improve quality and accountability, perhaps paradoxically making care more human, while also leading to new concerns regarding trust, privacy, and equity. This suggests that a social technology framing-one that requires social science and engineering collaboration from planning, through design to implementation and evaluation-is essential to avoid the unintended consequences found so often in other areas of health technology. 31 Surely, going forward, this subject will be at the forefront of questions surrounding what mental health care can and cannot do, and should and should not do.

Vikram Patel and Atif Rahman draw upon their respective research in India and Pakistan to show that, globally, the majority of persons with mental health problems who now have no access to effective psychological treatments can feasibly receive effective treatments from lay counselors and community health workers. 32 This practice-known as “task-sharing” of psychological interventions for depression, anxiety, and stress-related conditions and their precursors-has been the seminal finding of the field of global mental health, informing much work in the field over the past fifteen years. They demonstrate a paradigm shift in mental health care systems by which even poor communities have the local resources to address mental health problems. The upshot, however, is a very different kind of system in which experts play a much more limited role, and local communities become the centerpiece of care. There is growing enthusiasm today for this model, not only in low- or middle-income societies, but in American mental health care as well, albeit not yet by the professional guilds and insurance companies that drive the political economy of mental health care delivery. Effective task-sharing depends on collaboration across provider cadres and systems; and highly competitive mental health markets within which community-based care has been starved of resources for decades may not yet be conducive to this approach.

In the final contribution, Arthur Kleinman and Caleb Gardner review the quality of mental health care. 33 They show that, as in the rest of health care, quality is not directly measured. Instead, measures of institutional efficiency are taken to represent quality of care. As a result, patient and provider assessments are devalued by health care institutions in favor of bureaucratic and commercial goals, reflecting prioritization of efficiency and financial profit. Will digital technologies, the engagement of community-care workers, or any of the other changes in mental health care envisaged across this volume create high quality mental health care? If not, and if an adequate quality of care cannot be sustained in mental health care delivery, what are the consequences for systems and societies? And is this situation any different from what is happening to health care in general in the United States and globally?

There is resonance across the essays in this volume of Dædalus in calling for the inclusion of a broader range of perspectives to guide action. There are still more voices that could contribute invaluable insights. First, our colleagues from the Global South have much to add to this conversation. 34 By this, we mean to underscore that it is essential to include not just insights that emanate from having engineered workarounds to resource constraints-and there is much to learn from these successes, as Patel and Rahman's essay suggests-but also perspectives about navigating inequities that apply to resources and opportunities alike. Unmet mental health needs require even more exigent action in the Global South. Moreover, although the most vulnerable suffer the most precarity, the most well-resourced regions are not necessarily in the vanguard of innovative treatment. It is incumbent upon us all to learn from, and then enable and amplify, these essential contributions to the mental health discourse to achieve mental health equity that draws upon the expertise of all stakeholders. In particular, those of us who populate academic institutions in the Global North can disrupt and begin to repair the legacy of colonialism and privilege that diminishes opportunities for academic participation and leadership.

When the mental health workforce is considered, the focus is largely on how to expand their numbers, extend their reach and capacities, and enhance their performance. These are all important questions, as are various strategies to compensate for these health workforce shortfalls. A community-based workforce will need more supports than exist today as accepted standards of practice. Learning from expertise in community health, broadly, will also be critical. Delivering care from community-based platforms, using peer-based supports and counseling, and drawing upon cultural resources are all promising avenues for expanding the capacity to promote mental well-being and to better respond to mental health problems. The essays in this volume also make a compelling argument for both a broader remit for mental health promotion as well as deeper and more thoughtful engagement by mental health professionals. These arguments ring true, and yet how can we square this with another truth: that there are too few health professionals to meet mental health needs-even in enviably high-resourced settings - and that many of these health providers are also under intensifying institutional pressures that compress the time spent in providing face-to-face clinical care.

The professional agency of mental health clinicians is not without its own social structural constraints. The challenges faced by clinicians in offering high-quality mental health care in high-income countries such as the United States are, of course, dwarfed by the kinds of constraints that undermine mental health clinicians in low-income regions beset by workforce shortfalls, drug stockouts, and inadequate public health infrastructure. But these constraints are also not inconsequential. For example, administrative actions designed to optimize clinical revenue through cost savings and greater throughput of patients, in turn, generate pressures that diminish clinician time to care for patients, or limit the therapeutic options they can offer. In some cases, moreover, shortfalls in ancillary health providers and administrative health staff shift low-value tasks to specialized health professionals. In an ironic twist, this circumstance reverses the intended direction of task-sharing and undermines care when more highly skilled physicians absorb low-value tasks as ancillary health provider and clerical positions are eliminated or unfilled. Factors such as these contribute to health professional burnout, which is prevalent in the United States, may be associated with adverse impacts on clinician mental health as well as the quality of care they provide to their patients, and must be addressed in part at a systems level. 35

There is an imperative to resocialize mental health training-that is, to make it more attentive to historical, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of illness and care-so that we do a better job of providing education for trainees to work with communities. Across this collection of essays, there is agreement that meeting the needs of mental health and well-being will require a broader field of understanding, intervention, and response. It will further require that we educate and equip trainees so they can be effective and caring, but also that we better prepare them to integrate a more capacious set of aims that both encompass and vigorously redress the social determinants of poor mental health, and redesign mental health care to better emphasize the priorities and preferences of communities being served. To do this well, the trainees themselves will need robust support as they undertake careers with an expanded vision of mental health care delivery.

We have taught courses for undergraduates and medical and public health students at Harvard University on the foundations of global health, psychiatry, mental health, and the delivery of mental health care, in which we have integrated a social medicine perspective to critique and expand the scope of approaches to mental health. 36 It is important for all mental health professionals-in-training, early on, to see a world of experience outside the clinic, in order to incorporate a more encompassing model of practice that engages people beyond the formal health care system, and uses the concepts of well-being and preclinical distress on one hand, and recovery from illness on the other. A social medicine perspective also alerts us to other potential pitfalls in the field of mental health, as they relate to the unintended consequences of our interventions and treatments, and the various manifestations of biopower-from the history of white supremacy in the United States and its expression in policy, knowledge, and practice, to the role of psychiatric institutions and prisons in asserting social control, to the immense influence of global pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies, and governing professional bodies for each of the mental health professions in dictating the protocols and political economy of clinical practices as they are implemented and managed today.

The field of global mental health has evolved and learned from the experience of global health care delivery for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. We have personally learned much through our collaborations and long-standing relationships with implementers and academics from the world of global health, including our extraordinary colleague and friend, the late Paul Farmer, and colleagues at the organization he cofounded, Partners In Health. 37 The benefits and lessons of a philosophy and practice of “accompaniment” that he elaborated stand to offer us much in addressing mental health through presence and partnership with those who are forgotten by society. Accompaniment is an essential theory of practice of engagement in addressing clinical and social problems together, over the long-term, and in developing interventions that are person- and context-centered. 38 Several additional aspects of Farmer's legacy can inform our thinking and practice as we consider the essays in this volume. From a values perspective, this includes the moral prioritization of the most vulnerable people for the highest quality of care, and their active engagement, where they live, through the deployment of community health workers and other community members to create layers of contextually informed care. From a clinical perspective, it means to confront social and clinical complexity and comorbidity head on, to not shy away from providing care for the sickest people, as well as to build effective care delivery systems for those people living with unremitting and severe forms of illness and under conditions of the most vexing social adversities. It also means prioritizing the actual care of those people, as well as research that studies that care, as a foundation for the strengthening of the health care delivery system. Additionally, from a systems perspective, the financial commitments need to be made for creating the opportunity for the delivery of humane, high-quality, and “person-centered” care. 39 That is to say, mental health care systems need to reject what Farmer decried as “socialization for scarcity”-a mindset in which health delivery is adjusted to make do with inadequate resources-and instead marshal resources that are both adequate to meet the full scope of health needs and also commensurate with health care delivery in well-resourced contexts. 40 Perhaps most important, as it relates to the challenges to mental health care delivery, is to place effective listening at the center of a moral praxis that prioritizes people who are suffering from mental health conditions, not only as a clinical condition but also due to and greatly exacerbated by well-documented social and structural constraints.

Among these, we especially view accompaniment as a conceptual framing that can work well to resocialize the conventional construct of health care and broaden it beyond clinical outcomes so, for example, basic needs are fulfilled alongside clinical needs. In this way, an expanded scope of care would also address structural determinants of poor mental health that undercut therapeutic interventions in situations of privation, social complexity, and comorbidity: situations that are not uncommon, but are, rather, the norm. In this respect, accompaniment animates an ethos of responsibility to deliver the right kinds of care-including prevention and health promotion, as well as clinical care-and to provide it via public health, social welfare, and community-wide systems that have the broadest scope and capacity to reduce social suffering and advance social justice.

We are living through a truly dangerous time, when conditions in the world are coming together to worsen mental health. Many more people are waking up to the realization that mental health really matters and must be protected. The time has come to make mental health a global priority. The essays that follow demonstrate that we have the wherewithal to act. They also describe the realities, possibilities, limits, and major questions that must be dealt with if our actions are to have significant effects. We hope readers will join us in this still incipient but rapidly expanding movement for mental health. If not now, when?

There is no single coherent and integrated mental health care system in the United States, so throughout this essay we refer to mental health care systems .

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, “Global Burden of Disease Compare,” https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare (accessed October 6, 2023); and John J. McGrath, Ali Al-Hamzawi, Jordi Alonso, et al., “Age of Onset and Cumulative Risk of Mental Disorders: A Cross-National Analysis of Population Surveys from 29 Countries,” The Lancet Psychiatry 10 (9) (2023): 668-681, https://doi.org/10.1016/s2215-0366(23)00193-1 .

Aditi Kadakia, Maryaline Catillon, Qi Fan, et al., “The Economic Burden of Schizophrenia in the United States,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 83 (6) (2022): 22m14458, https://doi.org/10.4088/jcp.22m14458 ; Arindam Nandi, Nathaniel Counts, Simiao Chen, et al., “Global and Regional Projections of the Economic Burden of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias from 2019 to 2050: A Value of Statistical Life Approach,” eClinical Medicine 51 (2022): 101580, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2022.101580 ; and Winston Wong, “Economic Burden of Alzheimer Disease and Managed Care Considerations,” American Journal of Managed Care 26 (8) (2020): S177-S183, https://doi.org/10.37765/ajmc.2020.88482 .

National Center for Health Statistics, “Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 17, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2021/20211117.htm .

National Center for Health Statistics, “Suicide Increases in 2021 after Two Years of Decline,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 30, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2022/20220930.htm .

See Jeffrey W. Swanson and Mark L. Rosenberg, “American Gun Violence and Mental Illness: Reducing Risk, Restoring Health, Respecting Rights & Reviving Communities,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 45-74, https://www.amacad.org/publication/american-gun-violence-mental-illness-reducing-risk-restoring-health-respecting-rights .

World Health Organization, Mental Health Atlas 2020 (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2021); and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “Global Burden of Disease Compare.”

World Health Organization, Mental Health Atlas 2020 .

World Health Organization, Organization of Services for Mental Health: Mental Health Policy and Service Guidance Package (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2003).

World Health Organization, World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental Health for All (Geneva: World Health Organization, 2022).

Thomas Insel, Healing: Our Path from Mental Illness to Health (New York: Penguin Random House, 2022); and National Alliance on Mental Illness, “People, Place and Purpose: A Vision for the Failing Mental Health System,” May 2, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyaTeMW3Waw .

Andrea Fiorillo and Norman Sartorius, “Mortality Gap and Physical Comorbidity of People with Severe Mental Disorders: The Public Health Scandal,” Annals of General Psychiatry 20 (2021): 52, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12991-021-00374-y .

Maddy Reinert, Danielle Fritze, and Theresa Nguyen, The State of Mental Health in America 2023 (Alexandria, Va.: Mental Health America, 2022), https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america#:~:text=over%20half%20(54.7%25)%20of,illness%20did%20not%20receive%20care .

United Nations General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (A/RES/61/106), December 12, 2006, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/convention-rights-persons-disabilities .

Nancy Doyle, “Neurodiversity at Work: A Biopsychosocial Model and the Impact on Working Adults,” British Medical Bulletin 135 (1) (2020): 108-125, https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldaa021 .

George Makari, “What COVID Revealed about American Psychiatry,” The New Yorker , July 13, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/culture/essay/what-covid-revealed-about-american-psychiatry .

Ronald C. Kessler, Patricia Berglund, Olga Demler, et al., “Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Archives of General Psychiatry 62 (6) (2005): 593-602, https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593 ; and Damian F. Santomauro, Ana M. Mantilla Herrera, Jamileh Shadid, et al., “Global Prevalence and Burden of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders in 204 Countries and Territories in 2020 Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” The Lancet 398 (10312) (2021): 1700-1712, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02143-7 .

Michael Lawrence, Scott Janzwood, and Thomas Homer-Dixon, “What Is a Global Polycrisis? And How Is It Different from a Systemic Crisis?” Technical Paper 2022-4 (Victoria, British Columbia: Cascade Institute, 2022), https://cascadeinstitute.org/technical-paper/what-is-a-global-polycrisis .

Kay Redfield Jamison, “Disorders of Mood: The Experience of Those Who Have Them,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 151-165, https://www.amacad.org/publication/disorders-mood-experience-those-who-have-them .

For example, Roberto Lewis-Fernandez and Neal Aggarwal and their colleagues have developed the Cultural Formulation Interview for DSM-5. This interview schedule systematically assesses the influence of culture and other social factors on individuals’ experiences of mental illness, and is used for research, training, and treatment. Recent research on its utility can be found in Neil Krishan Aggarwal, G. Eric Jarvis, Ana Gómez-Carillo, et al., “The Cultural Formulation Interview since DSM-5: Prospects for Training, Research and Clinical Practice,” Transcultural Psychiatry 57 (4) (2020): 496-514, https://doi.org/10.1177/1363461520940481 .

Laura Sampson, Laura D. Kubzansky, and Karestan C. Koenen, “The Missing Piece: A Population Health Perspective to Address the U.S. Mental Health Crisis,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 24-44, https://www.amacad.org/publication/missing-piece-population-health-perspective-address-us-mental-health-crisis .

Swanson and Rosenberg, “American Gun Violence and Mental Illness.”

Helena Hansen, Kevin J. Gutierrez, and Saudi Garcia, “Rethinking Psychiatry: Solutions for a Sociogenic Crisis,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 75-91, https://www.amacad.org/publication/rethinking-psychiatry-solutions-sociogenic-crisis .

Jonathan M. Metzl, “The Protest Psychosis and the Future of Equity and Diversity Efforts in American Psychiatry,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 92-110, https://www.amacad.org/publication/protest-psychosis-future-equity-diversity-efforts-american-psychiatry .

Gary Belkin, “Democracy Therapy: Lessons from ThriveNYC,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 111-129, https://www.amacad.org/publication/democracy-therapy-lessons-thrivenyc .

Joseph P. Gone, “Indigenous Historical Trauma: Alter-Native Explanations for Mental Health Inequities,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 130-150, https://www.amacad.org/publication/indigenous-historical-trauma-alter-native-explanations-mental-health-inequities .

Anne Harrington, “Mental Health's Stalled (Biological) Revolution: Its Origins, Aftermath and Future Opportunities,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 166-185, https://www.amacad.org/publication/mental-healths-stalled-biological-revolution-its-origins-aftermath-future-opportunities .

Steven E. Hyman, “The Biology of Mental Disorders: Progress at Last,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 186-211, https://www.amacad.org/publication/biology-mental-disorders-progress-last .

Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield, “Two Sides of Depression: Medical and Social,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 212-227, https://www.amacad.org/publication/two-sides-depression-medical-social .

Isaac R. Galatzer-Levy, Gabriel J. Aranovich, and Thomas R. Insel, “Can Mental Health Care Become More Human by Becoming More Digital?” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 228-244, https://www.amacad.org/publication/can-mental-health-care-become-more-human-becoming-more-digital .

Arthur Kleinman, Hongtu Chen, Sue E. Levkoff, et al., “Social Technology: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Improving Care for Older Adults,” Frontiers in Public Health 9 (2021): 729149, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2021.729149 .

Vikram Patel and Atif Rahman, “Empowering the (Extra)Ordinary,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 245-261, https://www.amacad.org/publication/empowering-extraordinary .

Arthur Kleinman and Caleb Gardner, “Good Mental Health Care: What It Is, What It Is Not, and What It Could Be,” Dædalus 152 (4) (Fall 2023): 262-279, https://www.amacad.org/publication/good-mental-health-care-what-it-what-it-not-and-what-it-could-be .

Tom L. Osborn, Akash R. Wasil, John R. Weisz, et al., “Where Is the Global in Global Mental Health? A Call for Inclusive Multicultural Collaboration,” General Psychiatry 33 (6) (2020): e100351, https://doi.org/10.1136%2Fgpsych-2020-100351 .

Alexander Hodkinson, Anli Zhou, Judith Johnson, et al., “Associations of Physician Burnout with Career Engagement and Quality of Patient Care: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” British Medical Journal 378 (2022): e070442, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj-2022-070442 ; and Pascale Carayon, Christine K. Cassel, Elisabeth Belmont, et al., Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2019), https://doi.org/10.17226/25521 .

The Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School has contributed to the mental health field over the long term, including the first World Mental Health report-Robert Desjarlais, Leon Eisenberg, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman, eds., World Mental Health: Problems and Priorities in Low-Income Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); the first collaboration on mental health with the World Bank-World Bank Group and World Health Organization, Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Development Priority (Washington, D.C., and Geneva: World Bank Group and World Health Organization, 2016); and the Global Mental Health program at Harvard, led by Vikram Patel, https://ghsm.hms.harvard.edu/programs/mental-health .

Partners In Health, “Paul Farmer,” https://www.pih.org/paul-farmer (accessed October 5, 2023).

Paul Farmer and Gustavo Gutiérrez, In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez , ed. Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block (Ossining, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013), 166.

Jed Boardman and Subodh Dave, “Person-Centred Care and Psychiatry: Some Key Perspectives,” The British Journal of Psychiatry International 17 (3) (2020): 65-68, https://doi.org/10.1192/bji.2020.21 .

Arjun Suri, Jonathan Weigel, Luke Messac, et al., “Values and Global Health,” in Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction , ed. Paul Farmer, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 245-286.

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Mental Health Matters: Understanding the Vital Importance of Emotional Well-being

B eing mentally and emotionally healthy is essential to living a balanced life. Mental health influences how we think, feel, and act in our day-to-day lives, and it can also help determine how well we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

While many factors contribute to overall mental health well-being—such as managing stress levels through exercise or using positive coping strategies—all of us need to gain a better understanding of what psychological wellness looks like so that we can take steps towards maintaining an optimal state of mental health both now and in the future. In this article, let’s explore the concept and importance of mental health in greater detail – from recognizing its critical components to discovering how establishing emotional resilience plays a vital role in leading a happy and successful life.

Defining Mental Health and Well-being

Mental health and well-being are essential components of a healthy and fulfilling life, and understanding them is crucial. Mental health encompasses a range of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and refers to a person’s overall psychological well-being. Similarly, well-being refers to a person’s general state of being happy, healthy, and content with life. Attending a mental health retreat is one way to achieve and maintain mental health and well-being. 

Such a retreat creates a conducive environment where individuals can disconnect from the stressors of daily life and focus on their mental and emotional health. At a mental health retreat , individuals can participate in activities such as meditation, counseling, and relaxation techniques that promote mental wellness and a positive outlook on life. Individuals can lead a fulfilling life, free from stress and anxiety, by prioritizing mental health and well-being.

Investigating the Causes and Risk Factors of Poor Mental Health

There is no single cause of poor mental health, which various factors can influence. Some of these factors include biological, environmental, and psychological influences. For example, genetics and brain chemistry can play a role in developing particular mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety disorders. Environmental factors like childhood trauma or chronic stress can also contribute to poor mental health. 

Furthermore, certain psychological risk factors—like low self-esteem or negative thinking patterns—can also make individuals more susceptible to developing mental health issues. By understanding these causes and risk factors, we can be better equipped to recognize and address potential challenges to our mental well-being.

Exploring Ways to Improve Your Mental Health  

Just like physical health, mental health requires regular maintenance. There are various ways to improve your mental well-being and promote a positive mindset. These include engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment, practicing self-care, maintaining healthy relationships, seeking professional help, and developing coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions.

Additionally, taking care of our physical health through exercise and a balanced diet can significantly impact our mental well-being. We can improve our mental health and cultivate emotional resilience by prioritizing self-care and adopting healthy habits.

Acknowledging the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Despite the importance of mental health, there is still a significant stigma surrounding mental illness in many societies. It can make it difficult for individuals to seek help and support when needed, leading to further challenges with mental health. It’s essential to recognize that mental illness is just like any other physical illness and requires proper treatment and support from healthcare professionals.

Moreover, educating ourselves and those around us about mental health is crucial to reducing the stigma and promoting a more open and supportive environment for individuals struggling with mental illness. We can encourage people to seek help without fear of judgment or discrimination by breaking down these barriers.

Identifying Resources Available for Those Struggling with Mental Health Issues

Fortunately, many resources are available for individuals struggling with mental health issues. These include therapy and counseling services, support groups, hotlines, self-care apps, and online communities. It’s essential to seek help if you’re experiencing challenges with your mental health and to know that it is okay to ask for support.

Furthermore, employers and educational institutions are also increasingly recognizing the importance of mental health and providing resources for their employees and students. Seeking support from these sources can help individuals manage their mental health more effectively and lead a healthier and happier lives.

Celebrating Those Who Are Working to Eradicate the Taboo of Mental Illnesses

As more awareness is raised about mental health, there are many individuals and organizations working to eradicate the taboo surrounding mental illness and promote open discussions about it. These include mental health advocates, healthcare professionals, support groups, and community organizations.

By celebrating and supporting those making a positive impact in the mental health field, we can continue to break down barriers and create a more understanding and inclusive society. Through collective efforts, we can create a world where mental health is equally important to physical health, and individuals are not afraid to seek help when needed.

In Conclusion

Mental health is an essential aspect of our overall well-being, and it’s crucial to prioritize it in our lives. By being aware of its key components, understanding the causes and risk factors of poor mental health, and exploring ways to improve it, we can lead a healthier and more fulfilling life. It’s also essential to acknowledge the stigma surrounding mental illness and utilize available resources for support. Let us work together to create a world where mental health is given the attention and care it deserves.

The post Mental Health Matters: Understanding the Vital Importance of Emotional Well-being appeared first on Sunny Sweet Days .

Being mentally and emotionally healthy is essential to living a balanced life. Mental health influences how we think, feel, and act in our day-to-day lives, and it can also help determine how well we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.  While many factors contribute to overall mental health well-being—such as managing stress levels...

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Speaking Up About Mental Health

National essay contest.

SUBMIT YOUR ESSAY The contest is open to high school students ages 16-18

PROMOTION TOOLKIT Help spread the word with social media and email tools

December 1, 2023

Dec. 1, 2023

January 16, 2024

Jan. 16, 2024

May 31, 2024

Mental health is an important part of overall health across all life stages. However, far too often, symptoms are not addressed or recognized among teens.

Speaking Up About Mental Health is an essay contest that challenges high school students ages 16-18 to raise awareness of mental health. The contest gives students a platform to share ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma faced by young people, especially in diverse communities.

This contest is soliciting essays that:

  • Discuss ways to eliminate and/or reduce mental health stigma faced by young people, especially in diverse communities
  • Share resilience and coping strategies to overcome mental health issues such as social isolation and loneliness, depression, and anxiety
  • Address mental health stigma
  • Encourage conversations about mental health, social media, and/or technology
  • Suggest school policies or practices that could help reduce stigma
  • Describe barriers to mental health treatment
  • Cover other areas of concern to individuals and their communities with respect to mental health

Get details on contest rules and submit your entry on Challenge.gov

Promotion toolkit : Help promote the Speaking Up About Mental Health essay contest

The contest is led by:

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Page updated Jan. 23, 2024

September 2022: NIH Announces Winners of High School Mental Health Essay Contest

2022 Essay Awardees

2019 Essay Awardees

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Sarah-Nicole Bostan Ph.D., BCB

"Mental Health Matters" Isn't Enough

It's not just what's in your head that shapes your wellbeing..

Posted October 11, 2022 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

  • Individual health is not solely determined by biological or behavioral factors within one’s control but also by a layer of interacting systems.
  • Certain social, societal, and natural environments can be either more or less conducive to mental health.
  • Mental health is physical health and vice versa. It is not simply a cluster of unwanted feelings or self-deprecating thoughts.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Businesses globally touted the importance of how much “mental health matters.” While awareness of mental health as an influential factor in health more broadly is a necessary step toward eliminating the stigma which accompanies help-seeking behaviors, there seems to be little acknowledgment of how contextually embedded mental health actually is.

The social-ecological model of health

The social-ecological model of health is one model proposed over three decades ago by public health scientists. It has increasingly received more attention , particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and societal injustices which continue to be perpetuated around the globe, such as the recent death of Mahsa Amini in Iran or police brutality against Black Americans like George Floyd in the United States.

According to this model, individual health is not solely determined by biological or behavioral factors within one’s control but is also influenced by a delicate collection of interacting systems at various levels including interpersonal, institutional, community, and public policy which can be a source of stress or resilience .

What this means, in effect, is that individual lifestyle factors such as health behaviors, exercise, cognitive load, mindset, and spirituality which are ripe for intervention are but one layer of a complex web resulting in a person’s mental health status. Older or younger age, lack of education , and genetics are individual determinants of health that can also be acted upon to improve one’s mental health, such as through providing health education tools to communities at higher risk of developing mental or physical health problems. Beyond individual lifestyle and intrapersonal factors are the social, societal, and natural environments that are either more or less conducive to mental health.

Katarzyna Klasa/BMC Geriatrics

For instance, people who identify as part of minority status in the U.S. (e.g. usually those who do not fit the mold of a heterosexual, White, cisgender, middle-class, or above male) may struggle more with their mental health due to lack of social support, social engagement, socioeconomic status, increased responsibilities, marital status, and more. Those who live in food deserts, who are unemployed, have limited healthcare access, lack transit options, and have limited public spaces with safe walkability are also at risk for mental health challenges simply due to the nature of their human-moderated environment. Lastly, the natural environment is a factor in mental health too, which includes pieces of the puzzle like natural disasters which befall a specific geographic region, epidemics, pandemics, and naturally-available resources like fresh water access.

All of that is to say, mental health is more than just what’s in your head. It’s shaped by your personal history, your finances, your chosen behaviors, the people you surround yourself with, your community, your geographic region, and global events. Many of these layers go beyond what's in one's control and in fact, are out of the person's control and require systemic changes and overhauls to ameliorate. Mental health is physical health and vice versa. It is not simply a cluster of unwanted feelings or self-deprecating thoughts.

Though all of these additional layers contributing to mental health may appear bleak, by acknowledging the real challenges which exist, communities may be uplifted and empowered. Accurate awareness, though uncomfortable at times, is one step closer to problem-solving and creating generalizable interventions that can not only withstand socio-ecological challenges but reshape the landscape of these environments to create a more proactive and equitable health environment for all.

McLeroy, K.R., Bibeau, D., Steckler, A., & Glanz, K. (1988) An ecological perspective on health promotion programs. Health Education. 15:351–77.

Sarah-Nicole Bostan Ph.D., BCB

Sarah-Nicole Bostan, Ph.D., B.C.B., is a clinical health psychologist, researcher, and digital health technology advisor.

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  25. NHS Scotland must reform and improve

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