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What is mental health? | SAMHSA

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act and helps us determine how we deal with stress, relate to others and make decisions.

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. During life, if you live psychological problemsit could affect your thinking, mood and behavior.

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 lives with a mental illness.

Many factors contribute to mental health conditions, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma misuse of gold
  • Mental health problems in the family

Some mental health topics include:

Serious mental illness (SMI) is a mental illness that interferes with a person’s life and ability to function. Despite common misperceptions, having SMI is not a choice, a weakness, or a character flaw. It is not something that just “goes away” or that can be “snapped” by force of will.

View SAMHSA’s Public Message on Serious Mental Illness.

Early warning signs and symptoms

Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health issues? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawal from people and usual activities
  • Low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or as if nothing matters
  • Having unexplained pain
  • A feeling of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual
  • You feel unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried or scared
  • Yelling or arguing with family and friends
  • You experience severe mood swings that cause relationship problems
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories that you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or others
  • Inability to perform everyday tasks such as taking care of children or going to work or school

Do you think someone you know might have a mental health problem? Speaking of mental health it can be difficult. Learn more about common myths and facts about mental health and read about ways that can help you start the conversation.

Tips for a good life with a mental problem

Mental health conditions can make it difficult to work, attend school, keep a regular schedule, have healthy relationships, socialize, maintain hygiene, and much more.

However, with early and consistent treatment—often a combination of medication and psychotherapy—it is possible to manage these conditions, overcome challenges, and lead a meaningful, productive life.

Today, there are new tools, evidence-based treatments, and social support systems to help people feel better and pursue their goals. Some of these tips, tools and strategies include:

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