What is Mental Health

There are many conflicting arguments on what is mental health. In general mental health can be defined as “the psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment. ” (Princeton University) This piece of work will explore factors associated with mental health problems and identify how it is recognised. Exploring more in depth into a mental disorder and its causes and how it is managed. Finally, looking at the positive side to mental health that affects us all on a daily basis.

When you are physically well, you do not usually spend much time thinking about it. Similarly, you are unlikely to give much thought to your mental health as a rule. Physical and mental health is closely inter-related. Physical illness may cause mental symptoms, and mental illness often gives rise to physical symptoms this in turn influences the type of treatment used. Mental illness is usually recognized by a person’s abnormal behaviour. It is almost impossible to say what is meant by “normal” behaviour, so it is even more difficult to define abnormal behaviour.

It may lie anywhere between mere oddity to obvious insanity. People should not be classed as “abnormal” simply because they do not conform to the particular social, moral or political customs of the society in which they live. Mental illnesses are usually classified into psychoses, neuroses and personality disorders. With the medical model suggesting that mental illness is caused by underlying biological or physical factors. These factors include structural abnormalities of the nervous system, bio-chemical imbalances and genetics.

Psychology suggests abnormality is a product of faulty thinking or emotions. This in turn leads to abnormal behaviours. (Beazley M, 1997) Social disadvantage where the major contributing factor is poverty. All these theories contribute a valid explanation. There are no hard and fast boundaries between these categories, however psychotic people are out of touch with reality. They may have a view of the world and themselves, which is quite unreasonable (irrational). For an example, they may have delusions about their own importance or believe that everyone is plotting against them.

There is no obvious external cause of a psychosis. It seems to arise from some fault in the chemical processes in the brain. Schizophrenia is a psychosis and is the most common psychiatric disorder. It is, in fact a group of related symptoms, which probably have a variety of causes, rather than a single illness. Schizophrenics may feel separated from their own bodies and this usually involves a dramatic disturbance in thoughts and feelings. Some have delusions about who they are, or believe themselves to be persecuted by imaginary people.

Many hear “voices” of people who are not there, a symptom known as “auditory hallucinations”. Sometimes the disorder develops slowly as a gradual process of increase seclusiveness and inappropriate behaviour. (NHS Direct, 2007) There have been many theories to try and explain schizophrenia from a bio medical view it is thought to be caused by faulty chemistry in the brain; some forms of it can be treated with drugs. The drug chlorpromazine and similar compounds have enabled many schizophrenics to live in society rather than in a mental hospital.

There are many misconceptions of the illness and society generally believes that schizophrenics are dangerous to others, and are likely to commit crime. Evidence challenging this statement was carried out and a study called Camberwell by Wessely, (1997) found the rate of crime among schizophrenics to be no different to the general population. Although there is other conflicting factors Strauss (1982) found that the incidence of schizophrenia is significantly higher among the lower classes than among the middle and upper classes.

No one knows why social classes are related to schizophrenia but two explanations have been put forward and they are social selection, to mean gradually drifting downwards in society and becoming part of the lower classes; and social causation that means living under conditions of poverty, housing estates, high crime and stress. Evidence indicates that both explanations are true. (Brenner and Fried 1992) With social selection playing a greater role. (Dohrenweed et al 1992) Analysing this study it is saying that in a situation such as poverty it is very stressful therefore this factor could well trigger the appearance of schizophrenia.

When concentrating on poverty as a factor it could be looked at from a different angle. For example, is the poverty the cause of schizophrenia, or does schizophrenia causes the individual to drift into poverty due to their social functions been affected? In a majority of cases schizophrenics are unable to maintain personal relationships, jobs, or manage their day-to-day life. Peoples perception of the higher classes suggest that they would prefer to keep their mental illness such as schizophrenia under-wraps due to social stigma.

The higher classes have the means to private healthcare therefore schizophrenia can be diagnosed earlier and treated effectively. People’s opinions are often judgemental when someone is suffering from a mental illness such as schizophrenia. This is because their behaviour deviates from the expected norm. Schizophrenia in the United Kingdom (UK) tends to be diagnosed by the “first rank symptoms” (Schneider, 1959) the presence of at least one of the following passivity of experiencing thoughts and disturbances, auditory hallucinations and primary delusions.

These symptoms can be treated with drugs and therapy. A number of drugs developed in recent years have proved to be highly effective in relieving the symptoms of schizophrenia. These antipsychotic or neuroleptic drugs have been shown to block dopamine receptors in the brain. Talking therapies such as counselling and psychotherapy may be helpful for both people with schizophrenia and their families. Cognitive behaviour therapy has been used successfully for symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions or hallucinations.

These talking treatments are mostly used along side drug treatments that help them to adjust in society. Neuroses are usually brought on by external events such as stress. Almost everyone may develop a neurosis, though some people are much more liable to do so than others. Neurotic people are not irrational like psychotics. But their emotional responses to stress may be out of proportion. For example, they may weep frequently, or refuse to get out of bed and “face the world”. A neurosis often gives rise to physical symptoms.

Some degree of anxiety probably helps to keep us “on our toes” and make us give our best. Persistent anxiety, however, is a neurosis. It is usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as digestive disturbance, sleeplessness, and loss of sexual drive, asthmatic attacks or even paralysis. Since these symptoms are often not recognized as having mental cause, they make the anxiety state worse. A neurotic person’s reasoning powers are unaffected. So once the patient understands the cause of the symptoms, the condition may be relieved.

However, some people with anxiety neurosis need to be treated with tranquillizers or by psychotherapy. (Mackean 1997, pp. 273) When in a clinical setting dealing with a patient with a mental illness, it is good practice to communicate effectively and adjust the skills accordingly to the patient. For an example speak clearly, slowly and ask open-ended questions. Observing any change in mood and behaviour at all times for safety reasons. Phobias are examples of anxiety neuroses. A phobia is an abnormal fear of something.

For example, claustrophobia is an irrational fear of enclosed spaces and never the less this is classed as being abnormal even though most people suffer from some sort of phobia like arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. Depression is quite common in today’s society most of us get “fed up” from time to time, but a depressive person remains unhappy for long periods without any obvious reason. Even if the depression is caused at first by some external event, depressives seem unable to do anything about it. They may lose their appetite and lose weight, and often sleep badly.

Although there may be external events, which bring on the attack of depression, the patient probably stays depressed because of a disturbance in the brain’s activity. So it is pointless to tell a depressive to “snap out of it”, without offering some form of treatment. Anti-depressant drugs can help some people with depression. (Mackean, 1997, pp. 274) We are all so different in our personalities and temperaments that it is not easy to suggest a formula for maintaining mental health. A situation that might cause neurosis in one person will leave another quite unaffected.

However, there are one or two guidelines, even though they might strike you as obvious. Your physical health, being physically fit may be a factor that means you have less of a chance of developing a mental illness. A stable family life, a person’s experiences in the first years of a life have profound effects on his or her mental health. On the other hand a child from a stable home, looked after by affectionate, caring parents (or other adults), is likely to be mentally stable and able to resist everyday stresses.

Than a child from a home where there is emotional strife, constant bickering or violence this child is more at risk of developing a personality disorder in later life. Although one in four of the population in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their lives regardless of age, race, gender or social background it is particularly common in certain people. Anxiety and depression for an example in post-natal women is fairly common. Men also suffer from mental health problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.

Mental health problems often develop over difficult life events such as moving house, losing your job or the death of someone special. (NHS Direct 2007) The medical term for mood affective disorders is deflation of mood. Different types of deflation are shown in a graph see appendix 1. This shows that manic/bio-polar disorders are classed as a psychosis like schizophrenia, as the severity of their mood is much greater than a typical normal person. Furthermore people with manic depression are said to be creative due to the extreme productivity during their manic phases example, composer Schumann.

These episodes can be seen as a positive outlook to the condition, but the stigma attached to the bizarre behaviour caused by a mental illness is seen as abnormal. (Sited in Brewer, 2001, pp. 54) Mental health and mental health disorders are therefore influenced by a person’s biological, psychological and environmental factors. Just as health and illness in general. Establishing that mental health is needed to successfully perform mental function and to cope with adversity. If this becomes affected in anyway then the well being of the person could alter leading to a mental disorder.

The clearest evidence indicates that poverty and increasing socio-economic disadvantage for individuals are recognized as a risk for mental health problems. This essay has also identified a severe mental disorder, such as schizophrenia, its causes and how it is recognised, treated, and managed whilst in a clinical setting. Ultimately positive mental health plays a role in life’s stresses and is used as a coping mechanism in stabilizing the mind. There will always be a stigma attached to mental disorders as society in general will label it as, and look upon it as, being abnormal behaviour because it does not conform to social norm.