The Lowdown
25 July 2022 • 8 min read

What is Mental Health?

You may hear the words ‘mental health’ being thrown around a lot in conversations, in the news or on social media. The thing is, you might not know what that means exactly. No worries, we’re here to help.

A person with many different faces.

Let's start with thinking of health as a state of wellness. We can think of wellness as choices, ways of being and activities that provide balance in our lives that improves our whole self; mind, body and wairua. As we evolve and grow and as our environment changes, our state of wellness may require adjustments. It's helpful to think of a state of wellness as flexible to what WE need WHEN we need. This gives us room to explore and try new practices, connecting with different support and resources.

Everyone has mental health. Mental health is a part of your hauora, it’s the wellness of your mind, your thoughts and how you feel. On any given day, the state of your mental health can be really good, okay, a bit up and down, feeling a bit low or really struggling, and it can change quickly and massively based on all the things that happen in life, both big and little. It’s often complicated because everyone’s experience of it is personal and unique.

Our hauora is not individual. It’s a weaving together of our whānau, our whakapapa, our connection to the world around us and our beliefs. This helps us form an identity that connects us to our past, grounds us in our present and lifts us up to the opportunities our future holds.

It means that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves, and within this we can find people who care and support, stories that uplift us and help us to feel connected and heard, and a sense of belonging and acceptance of who we are.

Your mental health is closely linked to how you think and feel about yourself and others, how you create and manage relationships and friendships and the ways that you’re able to cope with the ups and downs of emotions that you face in your everyday life.

If you’re feeling good, you might say your mental health is all good right now. If you’re feeling down, anxious or confused, you could say your mental health is struggling or just a bit shitty at the moment.

Sometimes your mental health can be impacted by things that you can’t control. These can include sickness, injuries or other impacts to your physical health, systemic inequalities, the way other people act or treat you, hormones or other chemical changes inside your body, and even the time of year, temperature and weather.

How does your mental health affect you?

Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same.

There are many factors that impact our mental health and shift the balance between feeling good and feeling down or having a hard time as you move through different stages of your life. These challenges may come and go over time, they may be short or might last for many years. Everyone’s experience is unique and different from everybody else and can be heavily impacted by things like your culture, your family and your identity. You might be able to bounce back from a tough experience while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time and both of these responses are normal.

The one thing you always need to remember that you’re never alone in what you’re facing. People care about you and want you to be ok, and they may have a better understanding of how you’re feeling than you realise.

Positive mental health

Positive mental health is often connected to having a sense of purpose, knowing who we are, being able to do the things that matter to us and feeling connected to others. This is linked to resilience, which is having positive ways to deal with your feelings, recover from things that impact you and enjoy life even when things are hard.

It’s important to know, though, that having positive mental health overall doesn’t mean you’re excluded from experiencing mental distress.

A great resource to assist with this is the 'Five Ways of Wellbeing' from the Mental Health Foundation available here.

Where to get help:

If you’re thinking about harming yourself or are having suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 0508 82 88 65 now to talk to someone who cares and can support you.

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