Mental health and mental illnesses or disorders are often referred to as the same thing. Your mental health can be described similarly to your physical health, where it is the state of your well-being. Mental disorders/illnesses are barriers that affect how you think, feel, act and interact.
Different triggers can cause these barriers and affect every individual differently and uniquely. Your mental health can be "worked out" similarly to how we would go to the gym to benefit our physique; we can go to the "mind gym" to help our mental psyche. There are so many different disorders that affect every single individual alive today, and there are insufficient resources and education about what these disorders even are, let alone on how to manage them daily.
People may have poor mental health with no current mental disorders and may have a good state of mental health while tackling many disorders.
Depression is defined as an intense feeling of sadness and worthlessness that is so bad that you have lost interest in daily activities and the overall enjoyment of life. The effects can vary from making it difficult to think, remember things, eat, and sleep and can lead to days where you are getting little accomplished. In severe cases, depression may lead to events where you are causing harm to yourself or others. Depression affects 2 in every 5 Canadians, and these numbers are higher amongst teenagers and older adults with dramatic increases over the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected to feel grief and stress from things that occur in your life, but when it starts to impact the way you are living negatively, and you feel like you cannot move forward, then it is time to get yourself some help. There are many ways to tackle depression and depressive thoughts, like living a healthy lifestyle, therapy, exercise, medication, etc.
Anxiety is a natural defence mechanism our bodies put us through as a way of protection in dangerous situations. When we feel threatened, our body will get into the "fight or flight" mode, where we feel increased anxiety to increase our reflexes, speed, or awareness to help us get away from the threat. Anxiety is another major mental disorder that affects more than 20% of Canadian citizens; as we are in this fight or flight mode and there is no dangerous threat, we still activate this defence mechanism. Anxious children are usually quieter and well-behaved, and therefore, signs can go undetected by their parents, guardians, or teachers. At times, children who suffer from anxiety are also the "bad" children, who act out and may not be able to control some of their actions. Some effects may be increased heart rate, panic attacks, sweating, irritability, fatigue, etc. It is hard to diagnose anxiety among youth, with untreated anxiety leading to depression and other mental barriers. These barriers may result in struggles and missed opportunities in relationships, a lack of career advancement, and an overall lesser quality of life.
Bipolar disorder affects about 1% of Canadians, and amongst the 1%, approximately 90% of them say that bipolar affects their daily lives. Bipolar disorder is an imbalance of the neurotransmitters in the brain that affects our attitude and personality. Genetic make-up is thought to play a role, but so too are environmental pressures such as your family, work and social environment, stress, injury, illness, hormone imbalances, etc. Bipolar disorder is known to cause mood swings that may last from days to weeks to months. These mood swings can vary in severity but sometimes cause individuals to have intense beliefs that they are famous, have special abilities, or are invincible. These mood swings may also lead to erratic behaviour, such as excessive drinking/drug use, gambling, or sexual activity. After the duration of the mood swings, individuals may feel extremely saddened and have a sense of worthlessness. They intensely affect relationships at home and work and may result in trouble with the law.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects almost 10% of all Canadians, and the causes and symptoms vary per individual. PTSD is a natural emotional response to threatening or frightening experiences that one has endured in the past. They continue to experience fear of this event retaking place, or they "relive" the horrific memory, and this can affect their day-to-day activities and their relationships. Individuals may experience a traumatic experience such as a horrible accident, sexual assault, severe injury, etc., and they may have PTSD as a result. They may have nightmares about the event, vivid daydreams, increased outbursts of anger/aggression, acting as if they were enduring this pain once again. They can lead to several other mental illnesses and result in self-harm or the harm of others. PTSD, like the different mental disorders mentioned, is treatable and can be aided with medication. Medication continues to be the most helpful resource for individuals who suffer from mental disorders. However, exercise, meditation, and healthy nutrition can significantly and positively impact one's mental health.
Many mental disorders affect ALL Canadians, but with proper awareness, knowledge and the understanding that we do not need to suffer alone, we can continue to fight against these disorders and live a healthy, HAPPY life.