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Understanding Mental Health

Mental health charity MIND’s ‘Time To Talk Day' on 1 February is all about opening up conversations around mental health. With this in mind, Adele Trathan explores understanding and recognising mental health issues and ways to access help

While mental health extends to the furthest reaches of our comprehension, understanding causes and signs to look out for, whilst knowing where to turn to for help, could be the difference between make and break for those around us and, perhaps, even ourselves.



Life events

The death of a loved one, losing a job or relationship breakdowns can trigger mental health problems. Even positive changes, such as getting married or having a baby, can lead to stress or anxiety.

Work and finances

Work-related pressures, the stress of unemployment, and facing financial challenges can have a deep and often underestimated influence on an individual's mental wellbeing, affecting daily life and overall happiness.


Navigating strained relationships, whether with family members, friends or intimate partners, can be emotionally taxing. Such tensions can foster feelings of isolation, loneliness and a debilitating sense of worthlessness.

Genetics and family history

At times, individuals may have a heightened vulnerability to specific mental health challenges stemming from an inherent genetic composition, or perhaps a prevalent history of similar issues within family lineage.

Physical health problems

Living with chronic disease or confronting a grave illness can be overwhelmingly stressful, often acting as a catalyst for mental health challenges like depression or anxiety, affecting one's overall quality of life.



Mood swings

Experiencing dramatic mood fluctuations, or enduring extended periods dominated by intense emotions such as profound sadness, heightened anger or overwhelming elation, can signal underlying mental health concerns.


Deliberately distancing oneself from friends, family and previously enjoyed social engagements, opting for isolation instead of participation, may indicate a shift in emotional wellbeing or the emergence of mental health challenges.

Sleep problems

Battling persistent insomnia, where sleep remains elusive – or conversely, experiencing periods of excessive sleep, beyond usual patterns – can be indicative of underlying stressors or potential mental health imbalances. Similarly, feeling overwhelmed by fatigue, moving through days with a sluggish demeanour or constantly sensing a drain in energy, can signify underlying emotional or mental health challenges.

Appetite changes

Experiencing notable weight fluctuations, either gaining or shedding pounds rapidly, coupled with altered eating patterns, can be symptomatic of stress, emotional turmoil, or potential mental health concerns.

Unexplained aches

Continuous physical manifestations, such as recurrent headaches or consistent stomach discomfort, can sometimes be more than mere ailments, potentially signalling stress-induced responses or related mental health issues.

Feelings of hopelessness

Enduring a relentless stream of negative thoughts, which can escalate to contemplating self-harm or suicide, is a serious indication of mental health distress requiring immediate attention and support.



Talk to someone

While your GP should be your first port of call, it can often help to voice your emotions and feelings to a trusted friend or family member which can offer significant relief and provide a sense of understanding.

Remember, it's always okay to ask for help.

Professional counselling

Seeking guidance from a trained therapist or counsellor can offer a structured and supportive environment to address and manage mental health challenges.


Organisations such as MIND, and countless others, offer avenues where individuals can talk anonymously about their feelings.


Finally, there are various online forums and communities where people share their experiences and provide support to one another. And for those who prefer to discuss issues face-to-face, various community groups exist to provide a welcoming space, promote shared experiences, and work to foster connections where individuals can feel a strong sense of belonging and mutual understanding.

Mental health crisis helplines can be found at:


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