What is mental health?

Mental health means how healthy your mind and thoughts are. Mental health affects how you think and feel. Learn what is mental health, wellness in mental health, and what are mental needs. Understanding mental health will help you know what to do if you or someone you know are suffering from mental health problems.

female doctor and patient at a table

In the USA, people see mental health as part of the overall health of a person. They know that many people have mental issues. Americans are not embarrassed to talk about mental health. They know that many people may have mental needs.

Americans are not embarrassed to talk about mental health. They look for ways to get better.

As with physical illnesses, many mental needs are not serious. But also like physical illness, some mental needs may become serious very serious. They can cause terrible suffering.

What is mental health?

Mental Health is being able to function and take part in daily activities that result in:

  • Productive daily activities like going to work, school, or caring for others
  • Healthy relationships with your family and friends
  • Being able to adapt to change and cope with difficult situations

Mental health is a state of well-being in which you realize your own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively, and are able to make a contribution to your community. Mental health can be determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors.

Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, show emotion, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life.

Wellness in mental health

It is normal to feel stress and anxiety in different parts and times of your life. What is not normal is for these feels to take over your life in a long period of time. 

There can be many things that have an impact on someone’s mental wellness. They can be:

  • A stressful time at your job or in your life at home
  • Going through a difficult time
  • Biological – how hormones and chemicals are acting in your brain and your family history of mental health
  • Environmental – how safe and secure you fell
  • Physical – a traumatic brain injury
  • Experiential – the experience of living a traumatic event in your life 

Over a period of time, someone who has mental health needs will develop symptoms. 

The most common symptoms are:

  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Unusual behavior

Symptoms are the feelings and behaviors you have because of an illness. Disorder means something that is not working in the usual way. 

There are many different mental disorders and many different symptoms. With serious mental health disorders, all of the common symptoms are stronger. People are not able to carry on with everyday life.

What are mental health needs?

Mental health needs are when someone has an increase in:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Unable to sleep
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

You can learn more about mental health needs on the Mayo Clinic website. 

The following is a list of common mental health needs that become illnesses and disorders.


Many people can experience mild depression. Mild depression is when you feel sad or you do not feel like doing anything. If this lasts for more than two weeks, you may have major depression.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is called PTSD for short. PTSD is a natural emotional reaction to a terrible or stressful event.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is stronger than normal anxiety. Everyone is anxious sometimes. But anxiety becomes a disorder when it happens almost all the time.


Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. It affects the way you see the world and the way you behave. 

Adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder happens when people do not recover from a big change or difficult experience. Doctors often find refugees and immigrants have an adjustment disorder.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is shown by extreme mood swings. Extreme mood swings are when you go from feeling very sad to feeling very happy to the point of being manic.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders happen when you have problems with eating because of your attitude toward food, eating, and your body shape. You may eat too much or too little and go through extreme weight changes. With eating disorders, like substance use, you can demonstrate compulsive use or behavior, loss of control, and continuing behavior despite negative consequences.

Substance use

Substance abuse is also called “substance use disorder.” It happens when you drink too much alcohol or take too many drugs. Your use of drugs and alcohol hurts your body and affects your life in bad ways.