According to the World Health Organisation mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
According to the North Western Health Board (NWHB) mental health affects our feelings towards others and it also effects how at ease we are with ourselves. Mental health also affects some of our everyday skills, such as interacting with others around us; maintain relationships with people, whether it is intimate relationships or family relationships. Mental health can also affect the way we deal with certain events in our lives. Changes such as bereavement in a person’s life or losing or starting a job can have different have a different effect on different people at different points in time.
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According to Barry & Jenkins there are three levels at which the protective and risk factors work. These three levels are known as Individual, social and structural. According to the NWHB each level is supported and reinforcing each level, thus strengthening them. By strengthening human beings we are trying to increase self-confidence and develop their abilities and skills, such as interaction with other people and developing skills to help sustain relationships.
The following protective factors are based on an individual level. Some of the protective factors are having good coping skills, having good social skills
Good Coping Skills
If a person is good at dealing and handling certain situations in life, this can be a huge help in relation to combatting mental illnesses. If a person can manage to deal with a certain situation which they may be experiencing without getting too worked up or letting it get them down, this can have a positive effect on their life. If a person can be optimistic about a situation and try to look on the bright side of things and realise that they will come out the other end and that things will get more positive and that they may have a brighter future in front of them, this can only have a positive effect on somebody’s life.
A person that has the ability to fit into society and get to know people no matter where they go will hopefully never really experience isolation. Take for example a person moving to a new area that doesn’t know anybody that lives in the area. If they have the skills to integrate themselves into that society and get to know the community they will more than likely be welcomed by members of that society. If a person makes themselves known within the community and gets involved in things going on within the community, isolation will not be a problem for them. For somebody that may be experiencing isolation this can have huge knock on effects on their mental health. If a person feels that they are alone and have nobody to turn to, this can lead to mental illnesses such as depression.
I will now discuss some of the protective factors which are based on social level. Some of these are positive experiences of early attachment and positive attachment to family.
Positive Experiences of Early Attachment
If an individual whilst growing up and while they were children had positive experiences throughout their childhood, in relation to how close they were to their parents and if they had a good relationship can have huge effects on a person later in life. If a person has had a bad relationship with their parents this can have a huge knock on effect later in life. If a person feels that they were not accepted by their parents as a child this may lead to somebody suffering from depression as they may not feel wanted or accepted into society. They may feel that nobody is there for them. If they have had a bad relationship with their parents, they may also find it quite hard to develop an intimate relationship with somebody, as they may be afraid of having such a close relationship with somebody, as they have never experienced a relationship like this before throughout their lifetime.
Attachment to family
How close an individual is to their family is based on a social level according to Barry & Jenkins. How close one may be to their family can have effects on one life. If a person knows that they have their family around them no matter what and that they will be there for them through the good times and the bad then the person knows that they are not on their own on life. They know that their family will stand by them no matter what. People experience so many problems in life, so it is good for an individual to know that no matter what they have a group of people around them that love and care for them, and will support them through life’s challenges.
Supportive Social relationships
Supportive relationships, whether it be family relationships or intimate relationships is another strengthening factor which can protect mental health. If a person knows that somebody is always there for them, through the good times and the bad and to help them carry heavy burdens which they will come across throughout life, is a huge help to them. I think right now throughout society, a large number of people are carrying heavy burdens in relation to unemployment and bills to be paid. If a person knows that they have someone to lean on and to help them along the way in life this can be a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. If a person has somebody that is supporting them, this means that they have somebody to talk to and discuss any problems that they may be experiencing. Something as simple as just sitting down and talking to someone about the problems you are experiencing in life can help protect a person’s mental health. A problem may not seem as bad after discussing it with someone. As the saying goes a problem shared is a problem halved.
I will now discuss some of the protective factors at a structural level. Some of these protective factors are economic security and employment.
Employment & Economic Security
As we all know we are currently experiencing a severe fiscal crisis in this country. A lot of people are currently unemployed. According to the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) statistics in October of this year 420172 people were unemployed. This is a huge proportion of people in our society that are unemployed. Unemployment is a serious issue and is more than likely one of the leading causes of mental health problems in today’s society. For those that are currently unemployed they are struggling to pay bills and meet repayments on mortgages. This can be a very worrying time for people and can lead to mental health problems. It can sometimes lead to people taking their own lives as they are unable to deal with the everyday realities of life and can see no other way out. In a recent article published by the Irish Examiner in June of this year stated that the economy and the current state that it is in is interconnected to the rise in young men taking their own lives. The newspaper article took figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) from 2009. The report stated that 443 males took their own life in 2009. This figure had increased by 15% from 2008. Approximately 40% of these men were out of work and 32% of them had previously worked in the building industry, according to Ella Arensman from the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF). It is clear to see there is a strong connection with men taking their own life and unemployment.
I will now discuss some of the risk factors in relation to mental health. Some of these risk factors are school failure, social isolation and abuse and violence.
According to Barry & Jenkins School failure is one of the risk factors in relation to mental health. School failure is based on a structural level. School failure can have negative impacts on people lives when it comes to looking for employment later in life. School achievement may not seem important but as people get older they realise how important it is. If a person fails again and again when it comes to trying to get a job this may have huge effects on their mental health.
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If a person is experiencing social isolation it can have huge effects on their mental health. Take example an elderly person that may have lead a very independent life ends up in long term care. This may lead to loneliness. If a person is in long term care they may be very dependent on someone to look after them and help them with their everyday lives. This can be a big change in a person’s life and could possibly lead to depression in the long run.
Abuse and Violence
Abuse and violence can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health. Emotional abuse such as bullying as we have seen over the last few weeks can have severe effects on a person’s life. Over the last few weeks numerous young people under the age of eighteen have taken their own lives because of bullying. Obviously the bullying had a huge effect on their mental health and they could see no other way out.
From my essay it is clear to see that there are numerous strengthening and risk factors in relation to mental health. We as a nation and as individuals should be concentrating on the protective factors. In a report published by the Health Service Executive (HSE) it mentions that the World Health Organisation stated in a report that General Practitioners spend 30% of their time with patients that are dealing with a mental illness. This makes it clear to us that there are a huge number of people are dealing with a mental illness. According to the HSE Ireland has tried to increase people’s awareness of mental health and change their attitudes towards it. They have done this by developing documents such as A Vision for Change 2006 which is based on mental illnesses and mental health. A document titled ‘Reach Out 2005’ has being developed in relation to preventing suicide. These documents may change people’s perception of mental illness and they may not look at it in such a negative light. There is a huge stigma attached to mental illness, so hopefully in time this stigma will no longer exist. Mental health can have serious effects on people’s lives. People should not feel ashamed if they have a mental illness. They should not have a stigma attached to them because of this mental illness. People need to be more open minded and not look down on people who are experiencing an illness in relation to their mental health. Hopefully in time the supports that people need will be readily available to them when they need it. A mental illness can be life changing, so for people to know that they have supports available to them on their doorstops can make a huge difference and can help them overcome their mental illness.
Health Service Executive (2007) Mental Health in Ireland: Awareness and Attitudes, Dublin: Health Service Executive
Margaret M. Barry and Rachel Jenkins (2007) Implementing Mental Health Promotion, Philadelphia: Elesevier
The Irish Examiner (2012) ‘Suicide rise is linked to economy, says study’, [Online], Available: http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2012/0602/ireland/suicide-rise-is-linked-to-economy-says-study-195996.html [Accessed 21st November 2012]
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (2012) ‘Live Register, Figures for the Year 2012 to date – by gender’, [Online], available: http://www.inou.ie/policy/statistics/liveregister/&_figures=national&_year=2012 [Accessed 21st November 2012]
The North Western Health Board (2005) The North western Health Board Strategy & Action Plan for the promotion of Mental Health, Dublin: The North Western Health Board
The World Health Organisation (2005) Promoting Mental Health, Concepts, Emerging Evidence and Practice. Switzerland: World Health Organisation
Tom, O’G. (2012) ‘Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing’, SPL308: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing in Families, National University of Ireland Galway, Unpublished
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