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The Importance of Mental Health. By Our Student Pharmacist, Fahad Alazzawi.


What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects the way we feel, think, and act.

Mental health is a broad topic due to the many things that affect people. It can impact the level of stress, level of energy, and overall person’s health. Mental health is vital for everyone at every stage of life.

Many factors can affect our mental health, including:

  • Genetic components
  • Brain chemical imbalance
  • Trauma or abuse
  • Use of alcohol and drugs

How common is mental illness in the US?

  • 1 in 5 U. S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 20 U. S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U. S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34


What are some signs and symptoms of mental health illness?

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy, or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia, or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Why is mental health important?

As mentioned above, mental health is important due to its effect on our overall health. But how does our mental health effect other components of our health?

Many studies have linked the idea that people with long-lasting depression are more likely to develop chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Also, depression can increase the risk of being obese by changing eating habits along with changes in hormone levels.

Regarding hormonal changes, as serotonin levels in the bloodstream decrease, cortisol increases. High cortisol levels lead to nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or constipation. Also, high cortisol levels may lead to eating more and redistributing white adipose tissue to the abdominal region. In addition, elevated cortisol levels can lead to inflammation and weaken the immune system making the body more likely to get infected by many pathogens.

How are mental health disorders treated?

There are many treatments for mental health issues. Seeking help is the most crucial step. Seeing a healthcare professional who can assess then plan the next steps is critical.

Mental health disorders treatment also depends on the severity of the condition.

There are a variety of options for treatment.

Here are some examples:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Therapeutic treatment of mental illness provided by a trained mental health professional by exploring thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Medications
    • Therapeutic treatment that works to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication does not cure mental illness; however, it helps with the management of symptoms. Medication paired with psychotherapy is the most effective way to promote recovery.
  • Peer Support
    • Receiving help from individuals who have suffered from similar experiences.
  • Other treatments include:
    • Art Therapy: usually it is an adjunct therapy to traditional mental health treatment. The overall goal is to manage behaviors, process feelings, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase self-esteem.
  • Self Help Plan
    • It is a plan created by the individual to address their conditions and create strategies that leads to overall wellness.

What can we do to improve our overall wellness?

A self-help plan is a great start towards better mental health wellness by identifying triggers, warning signs, and activities that help our specific condition. For example, some people control their stress, anxiety, and overall mental health wellness by singing, painting, and exercising.

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Does exercising help with mental health?

Exercising is a healthy way to cope with a mental health disorder. YES! Exercising helps improve mental health by releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain, which enhance the sense of well-being and take the mind off thinking about things that we worry about, which breaks the cycle of negative thoughts. In addition, exercising prevents the development of chronic conditions such as diabetes and reduces the chance of having heart conditions.

  1. About Mental Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm Accessed August 9, 2022.
  2. Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495#:~:text=How%20does%20exercise%20help%20depression,your%20sense%20of%20well%2Dbeing Published September 27, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2022.
  3. Mental Health by the Numbers. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/mhstats Published June, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2022.
  4. Mental Illness. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968 published June 08, 2019. Accessed August 9, 2022.
  5. Mental Health Treatments. Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/mental-health-treatments Accessed August 9, 2022.
  6. The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. The Elitex. https://theelitex.com/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise/ Accessed August 9, 2022.
  7. Symptoms of Clinical Depression. Very well mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/top-depression-symptoms-1066910 Accessed August 9, 2022.

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