Mental health describes a state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life. It includes positive aspects of well-being, such as joy and happiness, and negative aspects, such as anxiety and depression. Recent definitions, including that of the World Health Organization, emphasise positive aspects of mental health. However, in practice, public policy and charities tend to address negative aspects which require treatment. These mental health problems are the focus of this overview.
Mental health problems cover a wide variety of psychological experiences, from the anxieties we all experience as part of everyday life, to more serious long-term conditions.
One in four adults experience some kind of mental health problem at some point in their life, and one in six people will experience a mental health problem at any one time. More serious mental health problems, such as psychosis, are rarer than anxiety and depression: 0.4% of adults have a psychotic disorder. The costs of poor mental health to the UK economy are enormous.
People with mental health problems are more likely to be unemployed, suffer poor physical health, and live alone.
Much of charities’ work focuses on helping individuals with mental health issues cope with day-to-day life and manage when crisis hits. Charities also promote good mental health, educating the public about their mental health and helping people to seek help when they need it. Charities also run awareness campaigns and lobby government, representing the interests of those affected by mental health problems.