What is a mental health assessment and how to carry it out yourself?

By Vladimir Marchenko

  1. What does mental health mean
  2. How does mental health affect physical health
  3. What causes mental health issues
  4. How to check mental health
  5. What to do in a mental health crisis

It hasn’t been long since people started to speak about mental health, and World Mental Health Day has been celebrated only since 1992. However, it is as important as physical health. So how can you evaluate and improve your mental health indicators?

What does mental health mean

The term “mental health” was given in the 2018 WHO fact sheet. It is described as an integral part of overall health, however, it is not equal to simply having no psychological disorders or mental disabilities. WHO defines mental health as:

It is a base for functioning and a state of well-being in which a person realizes his abilities, is stress-resilient and productive, and can contribute to the community. 

Why is mental health important? Without it a person wouldn’t feel complete satisfaction, would be in constant doubt, not being able to enjoy his own company and what is happening around, including in his surroundings. Despite this, none of us is 100% mentally healthy. Hence, mental health is a summation of the thinking activity of a person, his emotional background, social interactions, and the ability to earn money and enjoy life.

black woman tired behind the pc
In just a few months of 2020, the United States spent 238 billion dollars on the treatment of depressive disorders. For comparison, in 2005 only 113 billion was spent

How does mental health affect physical health

Health is a complex characteristic of the person’s state, and that’s why one with serious mental disorders cannot be called a healthy individual. There even exists a whole area in medicine and psychology, called psychosomatics, which studies the relationship between body and mental ailments. For example, in the following cases:

  • a person has a pain (kidneys, liver, back), although no pathologies are detected;
  • poor mental health lowers immunity;
  • stress, anxiety, depression can cause fatigue, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, physical pain, high blood pressure;
  • excess weight provokes laziness, predisposition to infections and diseases;
  • physical injury and disability can cause depression and persistent lack of mood, etc.

What causes mental health issues

It can be one or several factors, both psychological and physical, as well as genetics, surroundings, ecology, etc. Moreover, mental health problems can be triggered years after the actual psychological trauma occurred. However, the main cause of mental health disorders are the borderline states, during which no serious abnormalities in the psyche can be seen, however, the overall state of a person worsens:

  • Long-term experiencing negative emotions: fear, hatred, anger, sadness;
  • Stress;
  • Suppressed emotions;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Overwork and other problems.

However, we shall repeat that this list can be infinite, and only a professional can detect a real reason after a complex health check.

How to check mental health

Primary diagnostics can be carried out by yourself. However, very few of us question: do I have a mental health problem? A bad mood can simply be a sign of hypochondria, however, more serious problems could be also a reason.

The first evidence of the impending mental exhaustion could be:

  • instant irritability, "boiling";
  • constantly arriving late;
  • a complete absence of motivation;
  • insomnia;
  • avoiding responsibility for any actions;
  • tears with or without reason - from an earthquake in a distant country to a melodrama.
group therapy
To determine the state of mental health at a basic level, special tests, consultation with specialists, and group therapy are used

Here are the general criteria for the mental health of a person, also used by psychologists in practice:

  • absence of mental disorders (psychoses, psychopathies, neuroses);
  • the ability to love;
  • ability to work;
  • a sense of vitality (feeling alive);
  • awareness of one's own self and its uniqueness;
  • an adequate response to the interaction with external forces;
  • critical attitude to mental activity and its results;
  • proportionality of the emotional response to the environmental impact on the psyche;
  • behaviour by the rules adopted in society;
  • autonomy in decision making;
  • reflection;
  • the ability to recover from stress;
  • the adaptability of behaviour under changing conditions;
  • acceptance of what cannot be changed;
  • getting satisfaction from life, at least sometimes.

The US Department of Health and Human Services, in its turn, advises paying attention to these unmanifest signs of emerging mental health problems:

1. Overeating or malnutrition;

2. Insomnia or excessive sleep;

3. Lack of energy, lethargy and fatigue;

4. Mood swings regardless of the severity of the circumstances;

5. Anger and irritation;

6. Inability to concentrate on something for a long time.

How to tell if you have mental health problems? Here, we have given only the most superficial criteria. Remember that often the initial assessment of mental health is based on subjective feelings.

What to do in a mental health crisis

The situation can be improved in a few ways. The most adequate and broad prescriptions should come from a professional therapist, yet, a few of the activities you can plan on your own.

1. Look for a new adventure and experience. Everyday routine quickly gets boring and it seems that life is a vicious circle. It is only in your power to make it vibrant and diverse - try to write a poem, draw a miniature painting, cook a new dish, get out on a trip (not necessarily abroad, a neighbouring town or even a new district of your city, which you have never been to, will do).

2. Share problems and concerns. If you find it uncomfortable to do this with your loved ones and relatives or you do not want to be a burden to them, contact a psychologist and psychotherapist. Professionals will suggest a suitable algorithm for solving personal problems.

3. Develop and use your strengths. To maintain mental health, it is very important to adequately assess and apply your strengths in public life, work, and intrapersonal communication. At the same time, one should work on the weaknesses as well.

4. Find reasons to be happy. Yes, in the modern world it is not easy, but look around and you will certainly find puzzles of happiness. Chatting with friends whose jokes will make you laugh, your favourite movie or a new album, a delicious dinner or a hot bath, aromatherapy, an interesting book before bed - all this imperceptibly strengthens our mental health.

5. Exercise. Moderate physical activity is great for keeping the body in good shape, and half an hour of sports once in 2-3 days is enough. Physical activity improves sleep, relaxes, relieves stress and increases the production of endorphins.

6. Digital detox. Cell phones and other devices make your life much easier, but you also need to rest from them. Make yourself a "news break" and a "digital diet" by avoiding the use of electronic devices for a day or over the weekend.

7. Play with kids or pets. Time spent with your dog decreases the levels of stress hormones and increases the levels of oxytocin, responsible for happiness and joy. 

8. Enrich your diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Of course, all vitamins and minerals are necessary, but these acids are especially beneficial for protecting cell membranes from destruction, as well as strengthening the nervous system and neutralizing emotional disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome.

9. Stay outdoors as often as possible. Even a half-hour walk to a personal “place of power” can reboot the brain, give a new stimulus and improve well-being. Regular walks are great for relieving stress and relaxation.

10. Be grateful. The easiest way is to keep a diary of the moments you are most grateful for. For this, invest 10 minutes every evening and write down big and small moments you are grateful for that happened during the day. Five episodes are enough, also, remember to thank for the negative moments as well, because they are the source of invaluable experience.

11. Decoration or renovation of the apartment. Our environment also shapes our state. And it's not always about people. The unpleasant atmosphere in your apartment, clutter and dust can have a depressing effect on the psyche. Therefore, you can start with rearranging things and getting rid of old furniture.

12. Work on time management. If you do everything at the last moment and because of this you do not have time to complete work assignments, you are late for business meetings and dates, do not have time to eat and clean up, then there is nothing surprising in the fact that you are constantly on edge and feel unsatisfied with yourself and others. Try to plan tasks and distribute them evenly during the day.

13. Develop spirituality and moral qualities. Meditative practices help in this: yoga, repetition of affirmations, mindfulness and awareness, creativity, etc.

14. Failure is not a sentence, but a new experience and a chance to do better. Occasional or even recurring failures shouldn't bring you down. This is only an indicator that this particular action in this situation and at this point was wrong. However, you can always find a new and correct solution and become the winner in the situation.

15. Get enough sleep (at least 7-9 hours depending on age). A sound and healthy sleep acts as a personal therapist since it is at this time that important mental health processes occur, including the transfer of memories to long-term storage, removal of unnecessary ones, and preparation for awakening.

yoga pose happy young woman

Nowadays, mobile applications are also used for the comprehensive improvement of mental health. Among them all, the Hypnopedia application for iOS stands out. It works primarily with sleep. You start the session by listening to relaxing sounds and their combinations, and playback stops automatically after falling asleep. After this, based on the sleep stage, the app recites affirmations that increase motivation and other mental abilities, like performance and resilience. They are perceived subconsciously, and the best time for them is determined with the help of a unique algorithm that works together with Apple Watch sensors. To end your boosting session in the best way possible and wake you up in the morning at the moment when you will feel completely rested and energetic, a smart alarm clock is used. It gives a soft signal (haptic alarm) at the appropriate stage of sleep within the selected time interval.

Ссылка App Store

Thus, mental health is an integral part of a person's overall health. Psychological problems can cause physical ailments and vice versa. Therefore, taking care of mental hygiene is just as important as maintaining physical health.

Hypnopedia Mental health Well-being Mindfullnes