Mental Health and Mental Hygiene

Mental health info for young people

What do we mean by mental health?

young boy serious

There is often a lot of confusion about what we mean when we talk about mental health. Many people immediately start thinking about mental health problems or mental illness – but this is only one part of the picture…

Everyone has ‘mental health’ and this can be thought of in terms of:

  • how we feel about ourselves and the people around us
  • our ability to make and keep friends and relationships
  • our ability to learn from others and to develop psychologically and emotionally.

Being mentally healthy is also about having the strength to overcome the difficulties and challenges we can all face at times in our lives – to have confidence and self-esteem, to be able to take decisions and to believe in ourselves.

Dealing with life’s ups and downs

Having said that we all have mental health, it’s also important to understand when you might need to get some help or support with how you are feeling – or to know when perhaps you may be experiencing a more serious problem.

It is quite normal to sometimes feel worried, anxious or upset when things don’t go as you hope – everyone faces pressure in their lives at certain times and these can include:

  • exams
  • work and getting a job
  • growing up and becoming more independent from your family
  • making up (and breaking up) with friends. 

You can find more information to help if you are feeling stressed or under pressure from any of these things in our mental health tips.

Knowing when to get help and advice

What to look out for

If someone is experiencing worries, anxieties and difficult feelings to the extent that they are seriously interfering with their everyday life, for instance:

  • being able to study and go to school
  • being able to eat or sleep as they normally do
  • to go out with their friends or take part in their favourite hobby

and these feelings are becoming persistent, that is lasting for a few weeks or more, then it might be that they have a mental health problem or disorder and need to get some advice and help.

Mental health problems affect many more young people than you probably realise

Around 1 in 10 of all young people may experience a mental health problem or disrder where they may need help from a mental health specialist. 

It’s important to get help early. Mental health conditions can be treated and getting help early can prevent difficulties from getting more serious.

There are many different types of mental health problems and they affect young people differently and last for different lengths of time.

Find out where you can get advice and helpFind out about some of the types of mental health problems that young people can experience such as depression, stress and anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders and self-harm.

Get mental health tips – find out about how you can look after your mental health or help a friend or relative who is experiencing mental health problems.

Download a short general overview of the meaning of mental health and mental illness and the difference between them, and a chance to start thinking about how you are feeling.

Looking after your mental health

There are lots of ways that you can look after your mental health. Whether or not you are experiencing mental health problems, it is good to think about ways to stay mentally healthy.

The more I learnt about mental health, the easier things became.

Your mental health and what can help

There are many things that you can do to look after your own mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The following tips and suggestions will be helpful to you if you are experiencing mental health problems yourself or if you are supporting a family member with mental health problems.

You can also find information on:

Finding it difficult to sleep?
Food and your mental health
Drugs, alcohol and the links with mental health
Coping with bereavement and loss
Managing the pressures of exams and interviews

It’s especially important to look after yourself if you are feeling stressed or anxious. All too often, it’s easy to forget the basics like eating properly or getting enough sleep.

It’s also important to find ways to cope that work for you. Everyone is different, and situations can change over time, so it’s often a matter of trying different things out.

Talk to your friends

Talking By A Wall

It’s very easy to become isolated if you are feeling unwell, or are caught up with looking after someone else who is experiencing difficulties. Talking to someone you trust – who could be a family member, a friend or perhaps a teacher or tutor at college – can help you ‘share the load’.

Continuing to take part in your favourite hobbies or pastimes, or joining a local group can help you to not become isolated – or can be a way of finding new friends and building up a social life.

Share your feelings

Letting people know how you feel, including what you might be worried about, is often really helpful in reducing the feeling that ‘you are on your own’.

Being listened to and sharing your dilemmas can help you to come up with new ideas for solving a problem or difficulty that you are facing. It can also boost confidence, self-esteem and make you feel more in control of the situation.

Exercise and activities

0006 Football

As well as being good for your physical wellbeing, taking part in some exercise or physical activity can be another way of meeting new people and making friends.

Exercise can have many benefits. Some people find that exercise helps them to concentrate and sleep better. There are lots of different types of exercise and you can pick the ones that you enjoy. For instance, trying a relaxing form of exercise, for instance yoga, could help you to feel less anxious, tense and stressed. Or you may prefer to go for a run, play football or dance.

Local libraries are often a good source of information about what activities are available in your local area.

Ways to relax

There are lots of things, many quite simple, that can help you relax. Some people relax by:

  • singing
  • writing in a diary or journal
  • watching TV
  • looking after a pet
  • listening to music
  • having a bath
  • exercise
  • cooking
  • reading
  • going for a walk
  • going to see a friend
  • meditating

Protecting time for your interests

Doing the things you enjoy like watching TV, going to the cinema or listening to music, can help you to relax and to think through the things that may be bothering you … so if these activities appeal to you, then planning some regular times for them is very important.

Creative activities like painting, photography, acting and dancing can be good ways of expressing feelings. They can also perhaps channel energy in a positive way – and of course, they can help people to meet others with similar interests.

Taking regular breaks to do these things – especially if it seems like everything is getting on top of you – is a recognised way of tackling stress.

Knowing when and where to get help and support

It can be reassuring to know what’s available in your local area if you begin to feel that you need some extra help or support – and again, a library is often a good source of information about what’s available.

If the difficult feelings or emotions that you are experiencing – or those of someone you might be supporting – get to the point that they are having a big impact on your everyday life, or they are affecting you for longer than a few days, then you should consider talking to someone. This could be your GP, or if you are already in contact with mental health services, the professional working with your or your family.