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What is mental health? How do I know if I’m having mental health problems?

Mental health relates most directly with the functioning of our minds, that is, with our situation, thoughts, emotions and behavior. It also frequently relates to our physical health, as mental health can have an impact on physical health and vice versa.

Other things that may have an impact on your mental health (i.e., risk factors) is your family history, history of general medical illness (like diabetes, PCOS, thyroid problems, HIV, cancer, etc.), pre-existing mental illness (for instance, a person living with depression may be more likely to experience suicidal thoughts/behaviours), severe or long-term stress, social disadvantage (as may be experienced within members of minority communities), poverty or debt, experience of traumatic events (including violence, abuse or neglect), social isolation or ostracism (such as that caused by stigma/discrimination related to mental illness), bereavement and grief, unemployment, physical injury/trauma, and many lifestyle factors (like a personal routine related to exercise, sleep, self-care and rest).

Mental health in turn has an impact how we adapt to a changing situation and cope with stress; how we relate to ourselves/others in varying environments (such as at work, at home, at a social gathering, etc.); and in general, on the way we attend to, perceive, interpret, make meaning and give back to our communities. As mentioned previously, it also impacts our physical health as our mind, brain and bodies aren’t distinct, but connected and equally important components.

If you’re currently trying to understand whether what you’re going through can be considered as a ‘problem’ worth seeking external support for, let this connectedness sink in for a minute. Since one component may also affect the others, warning signs (such as the ones listed below) seen with respect to any one may be indicative of concerns in others.

  •   Changes in your eating or sleeping habits
  •   Withdrawing from the people and activities you enjoy
  •   Having low or no energy
  •   Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  •   Having unexplained aches and pains
  •   Feeling helpless or hopeless
  •   Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  •   Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  •   Having severe mood swings that cause problems in your relationships
  •   Having thoughts and memories that you can’t get out of your head
  •   Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  •   Thinking of harming yourself or others
  •   Not being able to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

While specific signs may point to a mental illness, it may not be helpful to self-diagnose due to many reasons, but most importantly, it is that diagnosis and assessment of such conditions can be subjective and hence require help from a mental health professional.

It is also important to know that your experiences are valid and require care and attention regardless of a diagnostic label, since the primary way through which we have arrived at our current understanding of diagnoses that are prevalent in any community, is by listening to individuals who speak up about their concerns.

Mental health is, however, a broader concept than mental illness, as it pertains not just to reduction of symptoms but also to one’s wellbeing, resilience and self-actualisation.

You may then also choose to seek support when:

  • You have observed certain patterns in your behavior/thoughts that you feel are holding you back
  • You feel you live with a low self-esteem or self-confidence
  • You find it difficult or unable to draw boundaries within relationships
  • You wish to explore and better your understanding of your own emotions
  • You find it hard to complete tasks within specific deadlines, and/or to feel productive
  • You’re feeling discouraged or disillusioned due to a recent life change
  • Having to take care of your loved ones has left you with a feeling of emptiness
  • You wish to learn to take care of yourself in a better way
  • You frequently feel that your needs within your life/relationships aren’t being met
  • You feel stressed at seemingly trivial matters
  • You’re feeling distressed but don’t know why
  • You wish for a space where you would be listened to with unconditional support, where the focus is your health and betterment
  • A health professional/friend/loved one has suggested it might help you

.. so on and so forth

In a nutshell : if the recent and/or ongoing state of your thoughts, emotions or behavior is having an impact on your ability to function on a daily basis or takes away time that you might rather be spending otherwise, you may benefit from speaking out and getting the support you need.


This article includes opinions expressed by a mental health expert. But we were humans long before we trained as professionals, and so are always looking to learn better! If you found that any of the above is inaccurate, irrelevant or unhelpful, or would like to suggest ways to make this article more helpful in any way, please let us know in the comments below.

Read the article, and wondering what’s next ? 
  • I want to take action now: If reading the above information has led you to decide that what you need is professional help, here’s a little bit about how our professionals work in case you would like to schedule a free consultation with us: our professionals’ work is based on a ‘recovery-oriented’ model, which believes in providing a space where each individual feels in charge of their own meaning of recovery from mental health concerns/illness. The aim of support isn’t just to reduce symptoms or to go back to the level of functioning that was, but rather to learn to emphasize one’s resilience and to hold space for those in distress as one is attempting to achieve short- and long-term recovery/life goals
  • If you wish to know more about Therapy, please go through these FAQs; you could also look up articles on our blog 
  • I want more help about how to broach the topic of my mental health with friend/loved one as/before I book a session

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