In a world that seems to be obsessed with communication and constant connectivity, research shows that the problem of loneliness is real and growing around the world. Guest writer Jacki McPherson* talks about what loneliness looks like and how we can help ourselves and others.
Mental health is the cognitive, emotional, and social wellbeing of a person. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Severe mental health conditions (sometimes referred to as mental illness) are less common and are defined by their duration and the effect on an individual’s day to day ability to function. They include major depression and bipolar disorder, and illnesses that produce psychotic symptoms (producing a loss of contact with reality, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder).
Many life events can trigger the natural response of grief, including the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a pet, or a significant change in job or way of life. Any considerable loss involves grieving, at an intensity relative to the sense of loss felt.
Drugs are substances that alter the way the brain and body work. These include legal substances like alcohol and cigarettes, prescription medications, and illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine, or ice. Depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens are the three main types of drugs.
Although legal and very socially acceptable in Australia, Alcohol is a drug. It affects thoughts, feelings, and behaviour at the time of consumption, and also afterward. The positive feelings of relaxation and reduced inhibition and changes it makes to the brain make it possible to develop an addiction to alcohol.
Healthy family relationships are a protective factor for mental health. If able to trust and rely on each other for support, family relationships help make us feel loved and safe. Positive shared family experiences help build the bank of strong connection and bond. Feeling like a part of a family creates a sense of belonging, which can make people feel good about themselves. On the other hand, family relationships can be a source of stress and a significant challenge to navigate.
Current research is linking nutrition closely with mental health. There is a bi-directional relationship – what we eat affects our mood, and our mood affects what we eat. Nutritional neuroscience is an emerging field that is focused on the relationships between nutrition and cognition, emotions, and behaviours.