Mental Health is the state (perceived by us, as well as others) of our mental 'capacities' as a whole.
The psyche is a composite
of our consciusness (awareness of our existence and identification), emotions, memories,
goals and much more.
The sum or result of all of these processes establishes a reflection of our mental state.
(how we are interpreting and reacting to our emotions, goals, interpretation of the external world, etc).
Our mental health is not only quantifiable to us (if we learn to observe it), but it is also perceived
by our friends, family, close associations, and all those that we come into contact with.
Is our mental state really that noticeable to people?
Unfortunately (in some respects), people are very judgemental.
Take our bodies for example. What is the first thing most people look at when they fixate
on the opposite sex while walking along a pavement and noticing somebody?
It's usually their figure, and then face, and perhaps dress and other things. But overall, it's appearance.
Your mental state is just as obvious as your body. Your gestures, movements, actions, habitus, reactions,
and general communication and mode of conduct is intricate and says much about a person. herefore,
mental state is just as noticeable as anything else on you.
Interestingly, the way we feel and conduct ourselves publicly, can affect our lives a great deal. Those with
an air of confidence seem togo far, regardless of whether they are intrinsically nervous. A happy person
exudes a vibrant energy, which positively affects everybody around him or her. Everybody wants to be
around these types of people. Why? Intrinsically, people want to be happy and confident like them and
often ton't know how to go about becoming this way themselves.
But what if we are content and confident, with a calm and peaceful disposition? And what if you
are deeply religious, content with most presenting situations that most would find difficult to endure?
Would people think you are 'mad' for being happy despite circumstances? Many would.
After all, if we seem normal to ourselves and are comfortable with that we've achieved
mentally, but not to other people because they find this hard to accept, this can have an affect on relationships.
But maybe we don't mind what others think. Maybe we are aware that they know we are acting different. If
we don't we call this, lack of INSIGHT.
If we are aware that they are noticing our differences in behaviour and aren't bothered, we can
simply label ourselves diosyncratic. Afer all, it can be dull and boring to be just like everybody else.
When you reflect a mental state that catches the attentions of others, it can be an interesting experience.
People want to know why you are the way you are. Do you kperhpaps know something they dont? Are you plotting
something? People are funny creatures. Always sticking their noses into other people's affairs.
Welcome to the world of mental health. I've often said mental health is like the law:
In its perfect state (which doesn't exist here anyway) the law is about
maintaining some order in not hurting or offending others, whilte qubbling about it along the way
in order to 'fine-tune' its parameters. And it's a never-ending process for both mental health and law.
Putting my ideologies aside for a moment, what do you feel your mental state is like?
Do you feel that you are confident, patient with others, slow to anger or become flustered?
Or do you become easily agitated internally, but keep it well hidden?
Or, are you all too often 'drawn in' by others confrontation, resulting in conflict - conflict that you
later regret you've engaged with.
Don't worry, because we all have components of this. Part of strengthening the mind, psyche, or
mental state is to develop strategies for coping with life. And even a step beyond this - understanding,
giving, and developing higher philosophies that become instinct, rather than contemplation.
As we grow mentaly, we are faced with many challenges. Learning and dealing with different personalities,
cultures, lifestyles, stereotypes, and even irrational behaviours presents many tests to mearsure
our abilities in both coping and reacting. It's a lesson that we will face until we are ready to pass on.
The way we work with and mature our mental health over our lifetime ultimately brings us
towards our 'pinnacle of cognition (and even spirit' if we see things this way) that we can be.
Mental health is as important physical health. Regardless
of how healthy the rest of the body is, when mental health
deteriorates, appreciation of 'peripheral health' changes to a degree.
Even when parts of our body are injured, deteriorate, or lose function, if we
are mentally strong, we can overcome these obstacles with ease.
Thus, we can see that mental health is so important for grasping the true essence of our existence.
In terms of medicine, our mental health can be affected several ways.
-Through learning deleterious information and using it to guide your life.
(eg., being raised in an environment that is difficult, unloving, uncaring, and with people present
who have mental illness themselves. )
It is true in many respects that we learn from our environments. But if you've grown in what you
feel is an 'unfavourable environment', it doesn't mean you're mentally doomed. The beauty of our existence
is that we can rationalize and intrinsically question. We were given the innate ability to decide
what is right and what is wrong. We are also capable of learning new ideas and then using them to help us
even more. And we can even take our bad experiences and use them to grow and even help others.
-Organic and biochemical changes in the brain.
Sometimes we are born with differences in the way we can think. Each of us is born with an abilityrange.
On many occasions, it can be altered to a fair degree. However, there are some individuals whose cognitive
(thought process) ability is less than others. This can affect their mental state,because they may have
a much more difficult time coping with life than others. And of course, we must always be ready to lend
a helping hand in order to assist a person cope with life when he or she has a different capacity for
learning and functioning.
We can be born with different ability becase of genetic differences (inherited), or even through
complications with pregnancy and delivery.
Regardless of our capacities we wer born with, our development during growth and even adulthood has an
equally impacting affect on our mental state. Not just in learning from our environments as we discussed
above, but in regards to brain development. In terms of organic and biochemical changes,
Leisure chemical use
Side effect of medications
all can cause organic and biochemical changes in the brain, which in turn, affect our mental states.
Chronic alcohol abuse over the years causes progressive neuron (nerve cell) loss and actual 'shrinkage'
or overall decrease in size of the brain. When I was doing autoppsies in my medical training, I'd often
come accross an individual who had drank excessively during life. When we removed the skull cap as you do to
establish the cause of death, we noted that there was an increase in the size of the space between the inner
skull and brain.
Chemicals like alcohol can play a large role in affecting our mental state through both, IMMEDIATE effects
of intoxication, and LONG-TERM effects of killing neurons in the brain (and other areas of the body as well).
Bacterial, viral, and even fungal illness can cause changes in mental state. Take meningitis for exaple,
the inflammation of the delicate tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. Developing the unfortunate
condition of meningitis through infection can result in a 'reactive' inflammation that can permanently
damage the brain and even spinal cord. Even certain chemicals not intended for the body, yet inadvertently
ending up there, can cause chemical meningitis.
Although injury seems an obvious cause of disturbance of mental function, we fail to recognize and understand
the individual who suffers from mental changes through injury.
Despite what many think, it doesn't take a forceful blow to the head to cause irrepairable brain
On more occasions than we realize, a small to moderate blow can cause a haematoma (also spelled hematoma),
a breaking of blood vessels around the surface of the brain, and subsequent leaking and collection of this blood
over a variable area. Normally, this blood is reabsorbed. However, if this blood continues to leak, which
is the case on occasion, it puts pressure on the brain, killing neurons and thus damaging the brain.
This can have subtle to serious consequences on mental state and thus personality. I've seen a good few cases,
where a head injury went 'undocumented' and resulted in the injured person's behaviour change permanently and
without insight on their behalf. Irritibility, decreased patience, increased excitability and over-reaction
to seemingly normal events became commonplace.
This can cause much trouble for the person suffering from organic mental illness, becase most people in
their enviroments simply aren't aware this is the reason they are acting this way, and think
the person acting like this is simply a 'nasty individual'. Perhaps our reactions to these people also show us
something about ourselves. We have become intolerant to many things we shouldn't over the ages through
lack of understanding and decresed patience. PErhaps we can learn from organic mental illness as well.
Other components of illness can also affect our mental status. Consider the stroke or dementia patient.
Part of their brain is damaged through these pathologies. This can cause unpredictable mental states.
personality changes, reactions, emotional changes, etc, are the norm in many serious strokes and dementias
and of course, we can be ever-so helpful to these persons through understanding and even learning as to
why these changes have taken place.
Side effects of medications can also affect the brain. Some medication have very serious effects on the neurons,
supporting cells and even hormones and other chemicals passing into and affecting the brain.
When the personality of someone you care for or even are acquainted with, changes suddenly or slowly, and you
know they are on anymedications, sometimes you can help them by either discussing it with them, or with family or
friends. This may help them, especiallly if the medications they are taking can have permanent effects on the
Just as all of the above can damage or change the brain, so can nutrition. As we are groring, our bones, muscles
and other tissues rely on nourishment to grow and repair itself. The brain is no different. If we continually
fail to provide the maturing brain with adequate amounts of
the result is that the brain cannot develop correctly. And even if we completely nourish the brain
during development and it is in a 'healthy' state, if we begin to chronically deprive the brain and body
of decent nutrition, the brain will begin to change on a microscopic level.
Deposits begin to slowly accumulate in teh cells, and within the blood vessels supplying these cells. Even
the cells that SUPPORT the neurons are affected.
Over time, these microscopic changes result in
depressed states because of inability to cope and even realization of changes in cognition
Nutrition is a life-long therapy when it comes to mental health. The reason being, proper nutrition
maintains a healthy brain and thus mental state. Even when we have brain injury on small or even chronic
situations, strategic nourishment does make a difference in healing.
On most occasions, the body will try to heal itslef. If you don't provide it with the essential building
blocks it needs, repair will not be as good as it would, had it been properly provided for.
Keep in mind, it's actually very cheap to keep the body well-fed. The best foods in life are usually the
cheapest. Eggs, fish, vegetables, etc. If you look in your local store or market, it's the processed,
and easy to cook meals that aren't as healthy for you, that are usually the expensive items in your basket !
The cheap foods (you know, the ones that you have to cook on your own!), are usually the best for you.
Diets and depression
Now that we've touched on mental states a bit, let's talk about nutrition and Depression.
There is much depression about. Perhaps it's always been this way. one thing is for sure.
It doesn't always have to be this way.
Depression is classically divided into reactive and clinical - reactive being 'reaction' to
an event (eg., your friend suddenly passed away), and clinical being more vague and longer lasting.
When I went through my psychiatric training in med school and did an extended (what I'd call a residency),
I went through the different schools of thought and theories on depression, opinions, biochemical pathway
Of course, there rae different causes of depression. Above, we discussed a variety of causes of mental illness.
These equally apply to depression. Taking the above into acount then, we can see there can be many causes.
On average, it seems the usual causes of depressiion (at least what I've observed) is
Reactive - to life's everyday challenges, which can really take its toll on you if you can't get a grip on it!
LLifestyle and nutrition - Which in many ways, overlaps with reactive if we let our situations cause us to
adopt 'coping strategies' that alter our mental states.
In terms of nutrition, what we eat, or don't eat, can have stong influences on our brain and therefore cause
or contribute to depression. Note that if you already feel a bit depressed, poor nutrition can affect
you even more.
As I've stated above, it does not cost much at all to eat healthy. So, if you're reason is financial, although
I'm backing your corner, you can eat very well for under a dollar per day. In fact, i experimented with myself and
ate this type of diet and did very well - better than I did when I'd spend more on processed food and desserts.
We shall be discussing more on diets in other sections. back to depression...
I've seen more people become depressed by incorrectly dieting, than I have who eat whatever they fancy.
Consider the person who eats for comfort. They are not often depressed, because when they begin to
experience any change in mood, they alter this feeling with a sugar fix, or fat fix. Keep in mind, sugars
increase brain activint (glucose is the brain's primary fuel), and when people who crave quick fixes to their
feeling, consume a high-sugar content snack, they are essentially temporarily boosting their brain.
Of course, this is a vicious cycle in SOME respects. If they exercise they will not store the excess sugar
as adipose (fat) tissue. However, if they don't enjoy physical activity and simply rely on quick sugar
fixes, they usually put on a bit of weight - but they are not worried about this, because their
brain is boosted with glucose and chemical release, causing them to feel good.
Thisiisn't such a bad thing in moderation. But what I see happen to these individuals is the occassional 'crash'.
OVer the days or weeks, they begin to notice the physical changes and become depressed.
Then they make it worse,by crash dieting.
Crash dieting is dangerous because you are dehying essential nutrients to your body. It cannot simply
survive on the excess fat we've managed to put on while comfort or binge eating.
Therefore, during their crash diet, they become depressed. Don't forget that glucose (sugar) is the
brain's primary fuel. When you crash diet, and deprive your brain of normal glucose levels, it becomes
The brain and body will try to survive on fats stored in the body. However, the fats can only go so
far, even if you have ample supply! As the body burns fat, the waste products build up, or accumulate
in the blood and even nervous tisse at times. These waste products of fat metabolism (called ketones)
can damage the brain and other tissues at high levels.
There is much to be said about old-fashioned hard work. Well, it really isn't that difficult. But what
I mean is dieting slowly - losing weight slowly.
Crash dieting is dangerous, except for uncommon medical reason under medical supervision.
From this snippet, we can see that depression can easily be caused by diet. And it certainly can
exacerbate it as well.
ecent diet is helpful in keeping your mental health the best it can be
I've placed links below. These links will provide you with various types of natural biochemical
strategies to keep your mental health at its peak. I hope you enjoy.