Had my vitamins? Check. Had a healthy breakfast? Check. Had two cups of milk today? Check. Had 8 glasses of water? Check. Walked outside for 20 minutes? Check. Exercise? Check. Had lots of fruit? Check. Brushed my teeth after every meal? Check. Had a good night sleep? Check. Laid off the sweets? Check.
Everybody feels pretty good when they start looking after their health by adopting healthy eating habits and making exercise a part of their daily routine. And it’s right to feel good about that. Having a balanced diet and exercising regularly is of immense importance if we want to live a healthy life.
But there is something else that is of immense importance too. Something that we often forget to consider.
We might be leading a healthy lifestyle in terms of balanced diet and exercise, but in spite of all this, we might start feeling down. We might start losing interest in our hobbies. Our minds might start hosting negative, destructive thoughts. We might start isolating ourselves. We might start worrying too much. We might start staying tense all the time.
And in worse cases, we might lose our will to live.
The checklist in the first paragraph is all about taking care of our PHYSICAL health. The other, very important and crucial (yet sadly, neglected) aspect of our health is our mental health.
Mental health can be defined as a person’s condition regarding her/his psychological well-being. And a mental illness or issue means the mental conditions which affect a person’s behaviour and thinking. It can takes many forms: the more common ones are known as depression and anxiety.
1 in 7 people worldwide (that is, 11–18%) suffer from mental disorders. (3)
According to World Health Organization, over 300 million people of all ages, worldwide, suffer from depression. It’s the leading cause of disability, and a major contributor to other diseases too. And at it’s worst, depression can lead to suicide. (2)
Mental Health in Pakistan
As for Pakistan, 50 million people suffer from common mental health disorders, as of 2017. Also, depression affects 44% of the entire population, according to a report in Express Tribune.(4)
According to WHO, mental health disorders account for more than 4% Pakistan’s total disease burden, with the burden higher among women than men. (3)
But what exactly causes a person to develop a mental illness? Well, there are a multitude of reasons. He/she might have had a traumatic childhood, or had been abused and/or neglected as a child. Or, sometimes the death of a loved one can contribute to depression. Other causes of mental illnesses include social isolation/loneliness, experiencing stigma, drug abuse, poverty, or even a long term physical illness, or physical injury.
We all need to realize the importance of mental health, and the impact it has on our lives. We need to start taking care of our mental well-being, and that can be done in multiple ways. For example, studies show that how one thinks about herself/himself can have a powerful effect on how one feels about herself/himself. So, avoiding negative self-talk and thinking positive thoughts can help one improve their mental health. Also, our bodies release stress- relieving endorphins before and after we work out, so exercises is an effective antidote to depression and anxiety.
Mental health must be given priority. It’s time we start caring about it.
Written by: Nawal Khawar
(1) Depression, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
(2) Global Metal Health: 5 key insights that emerge from the data, https://ourworldindata.org/global-mental-health
(3) WHO Pakistan celebrates World Mental Health Day, http://www.emro.who.int/pak/pakistan-news/who-pakistan-celebrates-world-mental-health-day.html
(4) World Health Day 2017: Depression and Anxiety on the rise in Pakistan, http://tvi.com.pk/world-health-day-2017-depression-and-anxiety-on-rise-in-pakistan/