Youth Initiative Magazine 2021

Mental Health Matters

Written by Carmen Valeria Hernández Aguirre, 1st December 2021
Illustration by Saptadipa Mallick

Hello, my name is Valeria Hernández and I am a 24 year old Mexican girl who loves her life. I love working out, going out with my friends, family and boyfriend. I am a vegan and I have an amazing job. I like to think I am living the best stage of my life so far. However I have also gone through some bad moments. Let me explain myself I little bit better:

Sometimes people say “hi” to you and ask you how you are. Like a natural instinct, you immediately respond with, “I am great, thank you” even though internally you might not feel that great. You feel sad, lonely, and angry or there is simply a weird feeling that you are not sure how to manage. You probably don’t even understand how you are feeling…

The consequences of ignoring the feeling can guide you to fights, depression, anxiety, drug consumption or even physical health issues.

Has that ever happened to you? Most of us have experienced this kind of period in our lives and it is normal to do so. Life cannot always be perfect and it has ups and downs but the key is to learn how to approach our emotions, to accept them and work with them as a team. What we are talking about here is Mental Health.

Nowadays we hear the term really often and since the world fall into this enormous health crisis with the covid-19 it became more and more popular. But what is mental health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”1.

As you can see, mental health matters.

Ok so, what can we do in order to take care of our mental health? Don’t you worry! I’ll provide you now with some of the strategies that the biggest organizations have discovered and proven to be effective when it comes to addressing mental health and therefore, a happier life.

Keep informed: Either if you are going through a hard time in your life or not, it is always a good idea to be prepared with good quality information. You can do research on websites and read about mental health, look for psychotherapists that work near from the place you live, ask help to the free services that your government has to offer and stay close to all the resources that you know, if needed, can help you.

Have a daily routine: A well-structured and attainable routine can help you to reduce stress from your brain and it gives a greater sense of organization. It also helps to accomplish a better sleeping schedule which leads to the next point.

Have enough sleep: Your sleep schedule and bedtime habits affect your mental sharpness, performance, emotional well-being and energy level. It’s best if you can maintain a consistent time for waking and going to bed2.

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity is one of the best ways we can protect and improve our health. The benefits not only rely on the physical body but also during exercise we release chemicals that can improve our mood and make us feel mentally better. You can start incorporating things like: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going out for a walk or a session of running, trying different sports and activities until you find the one that you enjoy de most, involve more people in the activity, follow routines from certified trainers on internet and keep track of your progress to help you stay motivated.

Social contact: As humans, social interaction is essential to every aspect of our health. Research shows that having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both emotional and physical health3. So now you have a good excuse to go out with your friends and family more often! Call them, visit them and stay in touch with people who are important in your life.

Avoid drug consumption: Many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa4. Another great idea to take care of our mental health is to avoid alcohol or any other type of drug consumption. And avoid using them as a way of dealing with mental disorders. It could only worsen the situation.

Limit screen time: Researchers in a 2017 study Trusted Source found that adults who watched TV or used a computer for more than 6 hours per day were more likely to experience moderate to severe depression5. Being aware of how much time we spend in front of a screen can help us to create consciousness and then we can manage our time by setting alarms and trying not to use our cellphones at least 30 minutes before bed time.

Back to the basics: It’s awesome how the simplest actions can make us feel so good. Sometimes we get lost in our own little world but it is important to take others into account. Try to be the best version of yourself and share it with the world. Start by giving out seats to elderly people while accessing the public transportation, don’t waste food, be punctual for classes or meetings, etc. These kinds of actions will make enormous changes in our lifestyle and state of mind.

Of course the list could get longer and longer but by not overwhelming our brain with lots of information we are also taking care of our mental health so let’s conclude here.

Now you certainly know it: Mental health matters and we all should take care of it. By the way, how are you? Don’t tell me now. Take some time to think about your answer!

Sources

1 World Health Organization. Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice (Summary Report) Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004. [Google Scholar]

2 Northwestern Medicine, Tips for a healthier Lifestyle. Available in: https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine

3 South University, Why Being Social is Good for You. Available in:

https://www.southuniversity.edu/news-and-blogs/2018/05/why-being-social-is-good-for-you

4 NIDA. 2021, April 13. Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness on 2021, October 15

5 Madhav, K. C., Sherchand, S. P., & Sherchan, S. (2017). Association between screen time and depression among US adults. Preventive medicine reports, 8, 67–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2017.08.005

Made possible with the support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta