The World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being 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."
Mental health involves:
- Living in a place you like and can call home.
- Having something that you believe is meaningful to do during the day.
- Having at least one person you can talk to about anything.
- Finding some joy in life and having fun now and again.
- Seeing that you have choices and are able to make decisions about what you want to do.
- Liking yourself – mostly.
- Feeling that you are able to do most of the things you would like to do.
- Taking a calculated risk now and again.
- Having found a place in the world and feeling good about it.
- Being able to make yourself feel better when you feel bad.
- Having a sense that there is a purpose to life.
(Source: Mind You: healthy minds, healthy lives, oranga hinengaro, oranga wairua, oranga tinana. Wairarapa DHB booklet).
There is no health without mental health
Without good self-esteem and a positive outlook on life – you cannot fully benefit from your physical health. And that has a lot to do with how you look at life, as Henry Ford so eloquently points out,“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”.
It’s well known that stressful life events can have a serious impact on our mental health. But when our mental health is strong, we respond better to those stresses and challenges, we are more creative, use our abilities to the fullest and make the most of opportunities. It helps us to more fully enjoy and appreciate the people and environment around us and gives us the ability to feel, think and act in ways that make it easier to do this.
- Contributes to all aspects of life.
- Is essential for your well-being and normal functioning.
- Contributes to quality of life, and can be increased or diminished by the actions of others.
- Concerns everyone because it affects our everyday lives in homes, schools, workplaces and in leisure activities.
- Influences your spiritual life – your spiritual life can make a significant contribution to your mental health.
- Makes it possible to have satisfying and enduring relationships.
Respect is important to mental health
Mental health also involves our emotional and spiritual wellbeing – that includes being able to respect all cultures and genders, and others who we see as less fortunate than ourselves.
A quick way to assess your mental health is to ask, do you regularly experience emotions such as happiness, well-being, enjoyment, harmony and peace? If so, it’s likely you're in good mental health. Conversely, if you regularly experience sadness, anger, frustration, disharmony, negative thoughts or worse: your mental health is at risk.
The conundrum is, the more at risk you are, the more difficult it may be to recognise your need for help – being mentally healthy is not only about being aware of how your mental state is affecting your life, but also asking for help if your quality of life is being affected.
It’s good to know, that while we can all experience mental health problems over our lifetime, for most people they are not usually too severe or long lasting.
The NZ Mental Health Foundation has a comprehensive list of mental health support services.
If you would like to talk to someone, try one of the following helplines. These are all free to call from a NZ landline:
- Free call or text 1737 to talk to or text with a trained counsellor
- Depression Helpline (0800 111 757)
- Lifeline (0800 543 354)
- Samaritans (0800 726 666)
- Youthline (0800 376 633)
Mental Health Foundation of NZ Staying well
Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) Raising awareness and creating framings and visions that promote equal dignity for all.
49 ways to think yourself well Books On Prescription, NZ
49 ways to write yourself well Books On Prescription, NZ
Te Rau Hinengaro – The New Zealand Mental Health Survey Landmark information on mental disorders in New Zealand, Ministry of Health, 2006
How dogs can help with mental health – mind boosting benefits of dog ownership UK, 2018