Q1 Campaign – What is mental health?

Already from the start of the pandemic in March 2020, it immediately had consequences for us. Early in the pandemic, we saw a general decline in the experience of well-being. This occurred to people all over the world. In China, there was a rapid increase in severe depressive disorder and in Norway, UiO and Modum Bad measured an increase in both anxiety and depressive symptoms in the population. Over 30% reported depressive symptoms. Several also experienced being lonelier. Those who felt most lonely were young people working from the home office, women and the unemployed.

The longer a pandemic last, the greater the pressure on the population’s mental health. Although we have no evidence to say that more people have suffered from mental illness in recent years, we can claim that more people are experiencing pressure on their mental health. As a psychologist at Aker Care, I have seen that people deal with the pandemic and other crises differently. Some thrive in the home office and handel the restrictions on  social interactions well, while others miss their colleagues, the chat by the coffee machine and and exciting experiences. Some say that they are tired of many things, they tend to have a short temper with their partner, children or in team meetings. Others feel that they have lost their motivation and energy, and that the days monotonously passes by. Some people have gained a few extra kilos, some have never trained as hard as in the last two years, while others have completely or partially stopped exercising.

There are large individual variations in how people have coped with the pandemic. Many people in home offices have experienced that it has worked out very well, and studies from Stami show that a large proportion of employees experience that they produce more and experience a high job satisfaction. At the same time many people experience greater difficulties in separating  work and leisure time.

If you recognize yourself in any of the reactions described above, I would say the following: Welcome to the club. These are normal reactions to an abnormal time. The purpose of this article is normalize human reactions to the pandemic, provide knowledge about what mental health is and give advice on how to maontain and strengthen mental health.

What is mental health?
Mental health is related to our experience of ourselves and the people around us. What thoughts and feelings you have, the ability to tolerate different emotions and to let go of, for example, negative thoughts. Mental health is also associated with the ability to learn and to be present in the here and now.
Good mental health can be described as a state of well-being, with opportunities to realize your abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, find joy in work and leisure activities and to be able to contribute and participate in society.

Mental disorders and illnesses are quite common, and at least one in three will experience mental health problems during their lifetime. Most people recover completely and there are effective treatments available. Coing to work / working provides a number of benefits, and can play an important role in the recovery and can in most cases be combined with treatment. A good working environment will help to promote good mental health. In a good working environment, we experience being part of a social community and being useful.

Good mental health is characterized by:
1. Feeling good about yourself / state of well-being
2. Good relationships with other people
3. Being able to utilize your resources and master life’s challenges

When we ask people what the most important aspects for having a good mental health is, most of us answer the following:
1. Participation in working life / having a job
2. Socializing with friends
3. Family and hobbies

In summary, it can be said that the central elements in good mental health seem to be the human perception of and relationship to oneself and other people, the ability to work and the ability to cope with life’s normal stresses. These are universal needs that apply to all people.

5 tips for increased quality of life and stronger mental health:
There is a lot you can do to strengthen your own mental health. Below are five strategies that research has shown have a positive effect:
1. Create good relationships: Be a good colleague by being available to your colleagues and be a good conversation partner
2. Be physically active: Activity is health-promoting, also for mental health. 150 minutes of physical activity a week is recommended
3. Practice mindful presence: Practice being present in the moment with an open mind.
4. Keep learning: Be curious and positive about learning something new
5. Contribute to a good cause: Engage in volunteer work that is meaningful to you.

Antonovsky, 1987; Unraveling the Mystery of Health