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What exactly does mental health mean?

So what do we mean when we talk about mental health? Being mentally healthy is not simply the absence of mental illness. Mental health is about physical, emotional and social wellbeing. If people are mentally healthy they are able to cope with the ups and downs of day to day living, they have the energy to lead active lives, they achieve personal goals and they interact with other people in ways that are respectful and just.

On the other hand, people who experience conflict, violence, discrimination and feelings of not belonging, or of not being valued by others in their community, are at great risk of developing emotional problems that further impact on their ability to participate fully in their personal, school, work and social lives. In addition they are at a greater risk of developing mental illness and other health problems such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

According to the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, mental health disorders constitute 10% of the global burden of disease and it is estimated that depression alone will constitute one of the largest health problems worldwide by the year 2020.

There is a convincing and growing body of evidence to show that treatment interventions alone cannot significantly reduce the enormous personal and financial implications for individuals, families and governments of such an emerging problem. We now need to begin to look at mental health in a different way.

It is important to examine the role that we need to play in our own lives in order to stay mentally healthy. However, mental health is not only an issue for individuals, it is an issue that we as a community must begin to address. If we are to be mentally healthy individuals we must be able to live in mentally healthy communities –communities that are free from violence and discrimination, communities where people have enough money to participate in life and most importantly communities where people feel as though they belong.

We all have a role to play in our homes, schools, workplaces, streets (including Pakington Street), shops and social environments to ensure that our interactions with other people are ones that help them to feel safe and connected. We have a role to ensure that all people, regardless of age, race, culture, sexuality, disability, or income are able to participate in community events and feel that they belong. To do so will ensure that we all stay mentally healthy.

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