Mental Health – What You Need to Know

Mental health is realizing your abilities, coping with stress, working productively, and meaningfully interacting with others. Mental Health can help you choose healthy food, exercise, and sleep choices.

Mental HealthThe cause of mental illness is often complex and may include genetic factors, brain chemistry, life events, and environment.


Occasional bouts of anxiety are normal in the context of navigating precarious or stressful life situations. It’s also expected that we will feel sad or down sometimes as a result of these situations. But when these feelings become overwhelming and interfere with daily functioning, they are no longer a normal response to difficult circumstances. If they persist, it’s important to talk with a health care professional about them.

The cause of anxiety is complex and varies from person to person. Genetics, brain chemistry and personality all play a role. Some people are more prone to anxiety due to their temperament or past experiences. Certain environmental factors can also contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, including food insecurity (which can lead to depression and anxiety), exposure to trauma (emotional or physical), stoic cultural and parenting practices, drug abuse, early life stressors, and poverty (which has been shown to correlate with higher rates of mental health disorders).

There are different treatments for anxiety depending on the type of disorder. Usually, therapy is combined with medication. Talk therapy can help you change patterns of thinking, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to the disorder. Other treatment approaches include cognitive behavioural therapy, in which you learn to challenge the negative thoughts that fuel anxiety; and exposure therapy, in which you gradually and safely expose yourself to situations that trigger fear to desensitize you. Medications may include benzodiazepines for short-term symptom relief, selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as escitalopram, and antidepressants, such as duloxetine or venlafaxine, which alter the brain’s chemical balance to improve mood and reduce stress.

It’s also important to recognize that there are some physical health conditions that can cause symptoms of anxiety, such as asthma, epilepsy and diabetes. If you have one of these, it’s important to see a doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure the condition is being treated properly and there are no other concerns that need to be addressed.


Depression is an illness that affects your mood. It can make you feel sad and hopeless and makes it difficult to think clearly. It can also affect how you work and how you interact with others. Depression can be treated, but it’s important to seek help right away. Depression can lead to other mental health problems, including suicide. People who have depression are at greater risk for other serious medical illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Depression may be caused by many different things, including genetics, a history of mental illness, difficult life experiences and stressful events such as unemployment, the death of a loved one or bullying. It can also be a side effect of some drugs, such as steroids and some antidepressants. Depression can also co-occur with physical illnesses such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders and Parkinson’s disease.

Symptoms of depression include feeling sad and having a low mood, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, losing interest in activities, difficulty sleeping and changes in eating habits. It can be hard to get diagnosed because it’s not always obvious and can look like other illnesses. Depression can be a very debilitating condition and is much more than just “feeling down.”

There are some effective treatments for depression, and almost everyone with the disorder gets better over time. Treatment is based on an individualized plan that your mental health provider develops with you. It usually includes psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. There are many types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. Some people find that a combination of medications and psychotherapy is most helpful.

A health care professional should perform a thorough diagnostic evaluation to identify your symptoms, determine how long you’ve been experiencing them and check for other causes, such as a thyroid problem or vitamin deficiency. They will ask you questions and take a complete family, social and medical history. They will also do a physical examination and order blood tests if necessary. They will use questionnaires, such as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, to assess your symptoms.


Schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes people to lose touch with reality. They may hear voices that are not there, see things that are not there, or have beliefs that seem irrational to others. They can also have trouble expressing emotions and finding pleasure in activities, which can make it hard to keep a job and take care of themselves. They may feel hopeless or suicidal, and their thinking can become jumbled. People with schizophrenia are more likely to die from other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

There is no single cause of schizophrenia, but genetics and environment play a role. There are also certain medications that can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms. These include some antidepressants and antipsychotics. Alcohol and drugs can also trigger schizophrenia-like symptoms, as can some conditions that affect the brain, such as cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease.

Some of the most serious symptoms of schizophrenia are psychotic, including hallucinations (hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling something that is not real), delusions, and difficulty understanding other people’s thoughts. Other symptoms, called negative or cognitive, include a loss of energy and motivation, a lack of interest in activities, social withdrawal, difficulty paying attention, and strange movements.

These symptoms can start slowly and get worse over time. During the first stage, called prodrome, a person can experience a change in how they think and act and may have very mild symptoms of psychosis. A diagnosis is usually made once more clear-cut symptoms appear.

Medications can help control the most severe symptoms of schizophrenia and reduce future episodes. Psychotherapy and other treatments can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. NYU Langone specialists can recommend the best treatment for a specific person and their situation.

Family and friends can help by staying in contact with a person with schizophrenia, listening to them, and encouraging them to follow their treatment plan. They can also help by learning about schizophrenia. Support groups can provide encouragement and advice, and they can help people with schizophrenia feel connected to others. In addition, reducing stress and getting regular exercise can help reduce the chance of having a psychotic episode.


A trauma is any event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope and can lead to negative health consequences including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Trauma can occur due to a single incident or may be the result of a long-term pattern like ongoing childhood abuse. People who experience a traumatic event often report being terrified or feeling like they are going crazy, and may have difficulty in their work or relationships. They might have flashbacks or nightmares, and avoid places or people that remind them of the traumatic event. This can lead to a life of isolation, where they are unable to form close relationships or express their emotions.

People who are experiencing a traumatic reaction can get help from a mental health professional, although some people find it difficult to be diagnosed as they feel that the diagnosis is stigmatizing and that their problems are more medical than personal. Other people who struggle to cope with the effects of a traumatic experience may benefit from a support group where they can meet others who have similar experiences and learn ways of dealing with them.

While many people who have been through a traumatic experience recover well, the symptoms can last for a long time and be hard to deal with. The good news is that there are effective treatments, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, psychodynamic therapy and sensorimotor therapy as well as eye movement desensitization reprocessing and neurofeedback which can help reduce the effects of trauma.

There is no set timeline for healing from trauma, and some people may find that their reactions do not go away entirely even after months of treatment. However, if they are having trouble functioning at home or at work, or they are having severe fears or anxiety, they should consult a specialist. Symptoms that should be a concern are trouble forming and maintaining close relationships, being constantly afraid or anxious, having nightmares or flashbacks or avoiding things that remind them of the event, or becoming emotionally numb or disconnected from others.

Trauma affects all walks of life and is common in the world today, whether it’s a natural disaster, war (as experienced by veterans and refugees), or violence. In fact, a study found that at least a third of the 125,000 people surveyed worldwide had suffered some form of trauma.

Samuel Sharkey