What is mental health?

We all have mental health, just as we have physical health.

Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (Source: Mind, 2012)

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. 

Over the course of our life, if and when we experience mental health problems, our thinking, mood and behaviour could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences and events, such as trauma, moving house, bereavement or relationship problems or other reasons such as loneliness, financial/gambling problems or drugs and alcohol
  • Family history of mental health problems

Mental wellbeing is our ability to maintain personal resilience when the pressure of daily life increases, both at work and at home, testing our ability to perform and thrive.

From healthy to unwell - knowing the signs

As with physical health, we all have a scale on how we are feeling mentally and in return how we think, feel, and act.

Having an insight into the healthy to unwell scale below could enable you to make a more informed judgement regarding your own mental health and that of others.

Awareness of the signs which could indicate a mental health problem not only helps when trying to understand why someone isn’t quite ‘themselves’, it’s a good starting point to having a conversation about how someone is feeling.


  • Regular and usual functioning
  • Regular mood fluctuations
  • Takes things in stride
  • Consistent performance
  • Normal sleep patterns
  • Physically and socially active
  • Usual self-confidence


  • Common and reversible distress
  • Irritable/impatient
  • Nervousness, sadness, increased worrying
  • Procrastination, forgetfulness
  • Trouble sleeping, difficulty in relaxing
  • Lowered energy
  • Decreased social activity
  • Intrusive thoughts


  • Significant functional impairment
  • Anger, anxiety
  • Lingering sadness, tearfulness, hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Preoccupation
  • Decreased performance
  • Significantly disturbed sleep
  • Avoidance of social situations


  • Clinical disorder
  • Persistent functional impairment
  • Significant difficulty with emotions, thinking, high level of anxiety, panic attacks
  • Depressed mood, feeling overwhelmed
  • Constant fatigue
  • Detached from reality and significant disturbances in thinking, suicidal thoughts/intent

Source: Mind

Possible signs and symptoms of mental ill health in the workplace

  • Decreased productivity
  • Morale problems
  • Lack of co-operation
  • Safety problems
  • Absenteeism
  • Frequent complaints of being tired all the time
  • Complaints of unexplained aches and pains
  • Alcohol and/or other drug misuse

Understanding the terms

A mental illness or disorder is a clinically diagnosed illness that interferes significantly  with a person's thinking, emotional or social wellbeing. It is diagnosed by a medical professional. 

Mental illnesses include: 
  • Mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder 
  • Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Personality disorders
Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorders in the UK, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis (NICE 2011)


Anxiety is a word used to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the fight or flight response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened.

Because anxiety is a normal human experience, it's sometimes hard to know when it's becoming a problem for you – but if your feelings of anxiety are very strong, or last for a long time, it can be overwhelming.


Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.

If the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back over and over again for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you're experiencing depression.

For information on other types of mental health problems, the Mind website is a useful resource, which can be found here

The NHS Choices website also has some useful information, which can be accessed here

"At its worst, depression can be a frightening, debilitating condition. Millions of people around the world live with depression. Many of these individuals and their families are afraid to talk about their struggles, and don't know where to turn for help. However, depression is largely preventable and treatable. Recognising depression and seeking help is the first and most critical towards recovery"

Source: World Health Organisation via YouTube

Useful Links

Local Minds

Mind, the mental health charity, has a network of Local Minds delivering mental health services in England and Wales. The contact details of the local Minds in close proximity to our primary UK sites can be found adjacent:

To find the Local Mind closest to you, please search via this link

Halewood                http://www.mindhalton.org.uk/ - 01928 563612

Castle Bromwich    http://www.birminghammind.org - 0121 608 8001

Solihull                     http://www.solihullmind.org.uk - 0121 742 4941/743 4237

EMC                          http://www.telford-mind.co.uk - 01952 588367

Coventry                  http://www.cwmind.org.uk/ - 024 7622 4417

Gaydon                    http://springfieldmind.org.uk/ 01789 298615

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