The word, Mental Health to most people, especially in minority communities, depicts an image of a scruffy person, roaming the streets. According to them, someone with mental health is a “mad person.” No wonder, this naivety would cause many people to refute the fact that there’s mental health. Most would attribute mental health as a “fabricated” disease; a disease for “attention seekers”, but yet, these same people seem to be struggling with mental health daily.

This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the aim is to raise awareness on the rate and devastation of mental health within our communities. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.” And to be honest, these figures are under-reported, given the increasing rate of mental disorders. So what is mental health?

Mental health is mental wellness or well-being. We can have excellent or poor mental health. It’s also an umbrella term for being emotionally or mentally well, or being able to manage mental disorders like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions, low self-esteem, sleeping problems, phobias, personality or mood disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, Post-traumatic disorders, suicidal thoughts etc.

We all have times when we feel down, stressed or worried about issues. Sometimes, these feelings fade away. But sometimes, they develop into more severe problems, which may be challenging to manage. When that happens, it affects our mental health. It affects our ability to bounce back, make rational decisions, stay on track, be happy, form and maintain healthy relationships and achieve our dreams in life. A minor mental disorder like low self-esteem or anxiety or worrying, if not treated, can lead to severe mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia and suicide.

Our mental health changes as we navigate through stages in our lives, with varied circumstances. For example, the stress of Covid-19 will significantly affect our mental health. Same as losing a loved one can affect our mental health. That’s why it’s vital always to keep our mental health in check.

And the best way to do that is to learn to love and be kind to yourself. Yes, create positive emotions, establish positive relationships, find your purpose in life, engage yourself in absorbing activities and develop a sense of achievement for yourself. In addition to all of these, learn to show gratitude, help others, and take one day at a time.

Our mental health depends on our daily efforts to keep our mind healthy. Part of my vision for this forum is to help us maintain a healthy mind.

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