What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected.
Mental Health Conditions
Mental illnesses are disorders, ranging from mild to severe, that affect a person’s thinking, mood, and/or behavior. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one-in-five adults live with a mental illness.
Mental Health and Substance Use Co-Occurring Disorders
Mental health problems and substance use disorders sometimes occur together. This is because:
- Certain substances can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem
- Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication
- Mental health and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma
More than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem. Substance use problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems, including:
Substance Use Disorders
It can be hard to identify a Substance Use Disorder sometimes because people can have a wide degree of functioning and often can hide their alcohol or drug use. Symptoms of substance use disorders may include behavioral changes, such as:
- Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
- Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Unexplained change in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
- Lack of motivation
- Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason
Physical changes, such as:
- Bloodshot eyes and abnormally sized pupils
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance
- Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
- Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Social changes, such as:
Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
Legal problems related to substance use
Unexplained need for money or financial problems
Using substances even though it causes problems in relationships
Pain tolerance and Pain resistance:
People have various degrees of pain tolerance. I have practically experienced that by providing care, and comfort, by treating people with kindness and compassion, I can increase their physical capacity to tolerate pain. The beneficiary, and the benefactor who serves with compassion, both equally experience a sense of Joy and tend to become Pain Tolerant and Pain Resistant. Compassion has a quality and it gives the man a capacity to tolerate and resist a far greater amount of physical, mental, and emotional pain as compared to an individual who has not experienced the force of compassion.
Advantages of Pain tolerance and Pain resistance:
The person who is Pain Resistant or Pain Tolerant would not need high doses of pain killers. Such Pain Tolerant persons would not use drugs to alter mood or to elevate mood. The Pain Resistant person would not use recreational drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or other chemical substances. He is not prone to the problems of Drug Addiction or Drug Abuse and Drug Dependence. He would not need drugs to relieve Anxiety, or Depression as he is not likely to be susceptible to states of mental anxiety or mental depression. He would not routinely use drugs for pain relief as the body has made psychological adjustments for its level of pain perception . We need to know people who depend upon drugs to live their lives. If Michael Jackson is alive, he would tell us about his drug-dependent human existence. There are millions of such human beings who live using drugs and they would be only experiencing self-pity. If we recognize the Force of Divine Providence called Compassion, we could help people and help them to live a life without drugs.
The Diagnosis of Good Health is better than the diagnosis of ill-health
To diagnose ill-health is easy. The sick person may describe his ailments. In addition to a person’s subjective symptoms, ill-health shows objective manifestations. The art of clinical diagnosis in sickness and disease involves the use of signs and symptoms attributable to specific conditions that affect the state of health of an individual. However, the mere absence of ill-health does not necessarily mean that the person is positively healthy. Health, like beauty is often a matter of subjective impression. But, while beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, the diagnosis of perfect and positive health is a verdict rendered after a carefully executed medical examination.
The important object of medical inspection and examination of Armed Forces personnel is to ensure that they are healthy and are able to perform the tasks assigned to them. As the medical officer providing medical cover to units in the Armed Forces of India and The Sultanate of Oman where I had served, I was responsible for assessment of health of all personnel under my care. To ensure that the troops are in good health, I was required to medically inspect all personnel under my care periodically and diagnose that they were in good health. Good health demands that a person should appear well nourished. In stature and build, a person should represent an average example of his race and class. The person should not present any evidence of emotional hyper-excitability. Temperamentally, the individual should exhibit reasonable aptitude and behavior consistent with the expectations of his occupation. Most importantly, the face of the person should reflect the bloom of vigorous health. A person in good health should appear cheerful and be full of vitality. The entire individual is carefully examined to assess the health status. I acquired the practical skills of the ‘Art of Diagnosing Good Health’ by carefully carrying out regular, periodic health inspections of all men under my care. Armed Forces insists upon Medical Inspections for a variety of reasons and individuals who are subject to the Rules and Regulations that govern Service in Uniform cannot refuse the mandatory Medical Examinations. Medical Inspection of all the men including all food handlers of the Unit is done typically once every month. In addition, men newly posted to the Unit (New Arrivals), men before proceeding on and returning from Courses of Instruction/Leave of Absence/Temporary Duty, and after Hospital Discharge are Medically Inspected. Recruits posted to the Unit after completion of Recruit Training, and men joining their Units after serving abroad are subjected to Medical Inspections. Thorough, detailed and specific Medical Examinations of military personnel is required under the following conditions:
1. All troops proceeding on ‘active service’ or troops proceeding overseas. 2. Individuals proceeding on permanent transfer to another Unit. 3. Men desirous of an extension of service or re-engagement. 4. Troops for transfer for the Reserve Duty. 5.Officers at the time of initiation of Annual Confidential Reports, entry to Staff College, any Course of Instruction, Fitness for Special Duty. 6. Men under arrest and undergoing sentence and before disciplinary action. 7. Men posted to serve at High Altitude. 8. Special examination at the outbreak of an infectious disease. Typically, I used to examine at least twenty known contacts of each case of Malaria or Viral Hepatitis.
Medicine is not merely the Art of Diagnosing ill-health and it is equally the Art of Diagnosing Good and Positive Health. I perfected this skill by meticulously repeating the task of conducting Medical Inspections thousands of times during the course of my service in the Armed Forces. This practice also contributed to my ability to diagnose ill-health and in the next several posts I would narrate a few specific instances when I diagnosed an impending outcome of death. During my service, there are instances when I diagnosed the fact of Good Health and made the individuals to perform their assigned tasks and did not allow them to escape from the obligations of Military Duty making invalid claims about their health status.
Mental Health in the Age of Stress
The accelerated tempo of life brings forth stimuli of high velocity of action, magnitude, and impact that they stimulate a chain of psycho-physical reactions strong enough to cause manifest effects in the human body. A person experiences ‘strain’ when his life’s demands exceed his ability to meet those demands. Prolonged high intensity intellectual and emotional strain which involves fixation of motives to do hard work, achieve high standards, carryout a task against opposition, and aspiration for high professional, prestigious, economic and social career and status would produce ‘stress’. Stress is produced not so much by the efforts which have been rewarded by success but more often by the ones not ending in satisfactory achievement.
The impact of modern living has a significant bearing on the genesis of stress-associated declines in health. Prolonged stress may result in increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, a decline in certain aspects of immune system which contributes to a decline in the immune system surveillance against viral infected and cancer cells, increases the rigidity of the vascular system which produces hypertension (high blood pressure), thickening of the coronary arteries that impacts cardiac health, aggravate breathing difficulties, disrupts gastrointestinal microbial balance, and a host of other problems. Depending upon the physical, psychological, and social environments under which the person has been brought up and is presently living; and depending upon the genetic and constitutional factors, stress affects a particular target organ or system. The problems associated with the use of alcohol, tobacco, and a variety of mind altering drugs and substances could be considered as an extension of a response to stressful stimuli and substance abuse further aggravates the ‘stress syndrome’.
Stress is reduced by pre-existing resistance. The defeat, imperfect production of resistance, or premature arrest of the process of its production gives rise to disease. Heredity, environment, physical and mental health, and social support detremine our ability to resist stress situations. The development of a well integrated personality to face life squarely determines the extent and quality of the resistance. By proper education and training, the threshold for physical and emotional stress could be increased.
The development of well integrated Stress Resistant Personality
A psychological stress stimulus may not cause a similar reaction in all individuals. All individuals have different capacities to perform and adapt when faced with stress.
People will react differently depending upon the preformed resistance they have.
Five different types of reactions are possible. 1. The stress stimulus acts like an inspiration and becomes a source of healthy pursuit. 2. The stimulus is accepted as a reasonable strain and the individual takes it up as a healthy challenge. 3. The situation appears to be overwhelming and the stimulus becomes either a source of depression, and breakdown or a source of ‘stress syndrome’. 4. It may cause anxiety and becomes a source of an anxiety state or neurosis. 5. The stimulus does not elicit any reaction at all as the individual is apathetic.
Depending upon their response or reaction to stress, we can distinguish five different personality types of people.
GROUP I: Persons highly resistant to stress. They have superior preformed resistance and often display an ability to develop resistance within a short time of exposure to stress. They master the stressful event and overcome the stress triumphantly. They do not suffer from any negative consequences while they carry out the task even while under great stress. They have dominant will power and have a great power of endurance.
GROUP II: These persons have enough preformed resistance to overcome the stress partially. They do not show overt ‘stress syndrome’ but suffer to a lesser extent in their attempts to master the stressful situation and achieve success. The task does not suffer. Such persons are likely to suffer from precipitation of internal conditions such as hypertension, coronary artery disease if they have other predisposing risk factors.
GROUP III: These persons have very low preformed resistance. If a stressful situation continues such persons may develop resistance which carries them through for some time but sooner or later they succumb to the situation and show evident ‘stress syndrome’. The task may not always suffer but the individual suffers from physical manifestations of stress.
GROUP IV: These persons have no preformed resistance and their ability to create immediate resistance is low. These persons abandon the task and tend to get away from the stressful situation. The task suffers and the individual could be punished for failing to perform his task.
GROUP V: These persons are Non-Resistant to stress. They have no preformed resistance. They are not capable of favorably reacting to a stress producing situation at all. They succumb and become psychiatric casualties and cease to exist as an organized entity. Sometimes, they may not be able to maintain their biological existence.
Armed Forces consistently strive to select and recruit only Resistant personalities and weed out the vulnerable ones by careful monitoring of the health of the troops.Over fifteen years of military service, I conducted several thousands of medical examinations to assess the physical and mental fitness of people and was actively involved in preserving their health and promoting the quality of their health.I recruited several thousands of young people for service in the Indian Army and also recommended the removal of people whom I had detected to be falling short of our expected standards of fitness. With proper nutrition, physical training, personal hygiene, clean habits, and immunization, without any doubt we could make people ‘resistant’ to a variety of biological, and physical stress stimuli. The stress imposed by psychological stimuli is also important and the resistance to such ‘stress’ could also be improved. Understanding the phenomenon of stress is important for our existence in the modern times. By improving ‘Stress Resistance’, we keep the men ready for a batlle at all times, maintain the level of Stress Resistance during the most stressful moments of the battle, and protect their well being after the stress of the battle is over. The psychological preparation for batlle includes an effort to increase the stress resistance level by proper motivational techniques used routinely in the medical fitness examinations of men. To sustain productivity in education, and at work, we need to lay emphasis on the concept of stress resistance.