The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of a disease or disability.” This indicates that to improve health as a whole, improving mental health is crucial.
The term “mental health,” includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. All-encompassing, it affects the way an individual thinks, acts, and views the world around them. Hence, mental health is important at every stage of an individual’s life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. As stated by Kessler et. al (2007) in their study, “the onset of many adult mental and developmental disorders occurs in childhood and adolescence.”
Children are exposed to multiple risk factors, such as the high prevalence of diseases, premature birth, being born from a problematic pregnancy, and living in poverty. This negative chain of events increases the risk of emotional problems. The negative effects on development and behavior result from the complex interaction between genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental risk factors. The cumulative risk effect is more important in determining emotional problems in children than the presence of one single stressor, regardless of its magnitude.
Genes and Environment both influence our health, but they rarely operate independently of one another. The environment can influence how genes express themselves, as to whether the individual will get the opportunities to thrive. Likewise, genetic factors can influence the effects produced by the environment. For instance, genetic factors influence which environment people select for themselves, how they respond to the environment, and how the environment responds to the person (Plomin & Spinath, 2004; Scarr & McCartney, 1983).
Genetics and other biological variables such as abnormal balances of neurotransmitters and brain defects and injury have been significantly linked to mental health. Genetic risk factors have been indicated as important in the causation of many mental disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits/pathways, including abnormal balances of neurotransmitters, and brain defects and injury have likewise been noted as potential causative factors of mental illness.
Additionally, numerous environmental factors are associated with mental illness. Examples of the environmental factors associated with mental illness include stressors such as the death of a loved one, separation/divorce, changing schools, job loss, and financial hardships; cultural and social variables; prenatal exposure to viruses, toxins, alcohol and/or drugs; nutritional deficiencies; chronic medical disorders; autoimmune diseases and infections; tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake; air pollution and toxicant exposure; high weather temperatures; seasonal patterns; natural disasters; and rural geographical location. (Heekin & Polivka, 2015).
Mental disorders, thus, tend to result from these various combinations of the contributing/causative factors, and therefore, all of these factors and mental health issues must be considered in context. While genetic factors are likely to persist, certain environmental factors related to mental illness are modifiable. Awareness of the numerous environmental factors that contribute to mental illness could help individuals, family members, friends, teachers, employers, coworkers, and health care providers utilize and/or develop preventative interventions, early identification and screening services, and immediate treatment strategies for mental health problems.
A substantial proportion of individuals with mental illness do not receive the mental health care they need, even though reliable and cost-effective evidence-based services exist for all mental disorders. The study, prevention, early recognition, and treatment of mental illnesses are not only economical but more importantly, essential to the overall well-being of society. We, at You’re Wonderful Project; believe that every life is important and worth saving; and therefore, we extend online peer-to-peer counseling services to make mental health services accessible for the youth.
- Heekin, K. & Polivka, L. (2015). The Claude Pepper Center Florida State University. Environmental and Economic Factors Associated with Mental Illness. Retrieved from: here
- Evans, G.W., (2003). Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine. The Built Environment and Mental Health