Let's Talk About Mental Health: a Crash Course

By Tanisha Mehta 

What is mental health?

What is mental health? When we think about health, we almost always default to thinking about physical health. According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”24 Put simply, mental health is how we feel about ourselves, our life, our family, friends, and the world around us.

Why is it so important?

Why is it so important? Mental health directly relates to our physical health. If we are stressed or depressed, our poor mental health can impact our physical health. While in a depressive state, people are often distracted from their physical well-being.39 This can be exacerbated by things like stress and anxiety, which can give rise to adverse health outcomes such as panic attacks and even heart attacks. Indeed, mental health disorders (e.g., depression) can have serious consequences (e.g., suicide). In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children and adolescents ages 13 to 19, and the leading cause of death among 13-year-olds.40  Thus, the health and well-being of our own minds is just as important as (maybe even more important than) our physical fitness. 

Why is mental health taboo?

Why is mental health taboo? Mental health is often stigmatized and devalued, perhaps due to a lack of understanding and fear. Mental health disorders and illnesses are commonly perceived to be ‘abnormal’ and out of the ordinary. However, the truth is that they are far from that. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20.6% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2019 and 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016.31 Despite the prevalence of mental illnesses, many still do not realize the importance of mental well-being, while others don’t even believe in the methods used to treat mental health disorders, such as therapy. 

What does COVID-19 have to do with mental health?

What does Covid have to do with mental health? Although Covid-19 has not directly physically impacted every person, it has certainly had widespread consequences for mental health, especially among young people like myself. As Covid-19 took precedence over all areas of our lives, less resources and attention were devoted to mental health services.2 This, combined with the physical ramifications of the virus, school closures and economic concerns, and social isolation, contributed to a decline in mental health among children.5 As such, it is important for us to educate and spread awareness about mental health, especially during the pandemic, in order to better our lives and the lives of all the children around us.