Why Mental Health Maintenance Is Important

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a condition of well-being.

This well-being allows you to contribute to your community, work productively, cope with life’s regular struggles and realize your potential. Your mental health directly impacts your quality of life. Without the burdens of addictions, excessive stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological challenges, you are more capable of living your life to its fullest. With proper mental health, you can effectively maintain strong relationships, make decent life choices, keep up your physical health and emotional well-being. Good mental health can also help you deal with life’s natural changes. Mental health can even help you to discover and fulfill your potential.

About one-fourth of all Americans suffer from a mental health disorder. Common mental health disorders include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and bipolar disorder. Undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders can exacerbate their symptoms, increase their progression and make subsequent treatment all the more difficult. Meanwhile, every aspect of your quality of life, from your finances to your relationships and personal safety, can be impacted.

Lowers Medical Expenses

Having good mental health can help you to spend less on medical costs. Many studies have found the use of medical services declines when people get adequate mental health care. By the same token, a 2012 Health Service Research study found people experiencing physical health issues were three times as likely as people without physical issues to seek out care for mental health issues. Other research has found people with mental health issues left untreated visit doctors twice as frequently as people receiving adequate mental health care. People with untreated mental health concerns also have a greater likelihood of making bad life choices and engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drug and alcohol use, poor nutrition and reckless activity. These choices and behaviors can lead to physical problems and medical issues as well as to other exacerbated mental health problems.

In this way, physical health problems and mental health problems can produce a self-perpetuating cycle where one aggravates the other. Many health problems can be caused or aggravated by certain mental health problems. For example, intense stress or anxiety can be a factor in colitis, ulcers and heart disease, as well as lowering immune system strength and increasing vulnerability to infections. On the other hand, improving mental health can reduce instances of physical problems and lower medical costs. As a 2003 study found, treating depression in patients with arthritis resulted in lowered pain levels and improved health overall.

Improves the Workplace

Smart employers value the mental health of their employees because mentally healthy employees make for a productive workplace. Mental health in the workplace has been linked to fewer workplace accidents and absenteeism, improved performance and increased productivity. According to the World Health Organization, about 200 million days of work are lost every year from depression. Similarly, mental health issues account for five of 10 top causes of disability around the world. According to a 2012 Norwegian Institute of Public Health study, depression and anxiety sufferers take repeated sick leave more commonly and for longer durations than other workers.

If your employer or insurer offers a mental health program, then take advantage of it. You may be able to use your employer or your job-based insurance to find mental health help for yourself. Your improved performance at work can lead to improved job satisfaction for both you and your employer. In this way, improving your mental health could lead to raises and promotions at work.

Increases Financial Stability

The effects of mental health or illness on your work life can have subsequent effects on your financial stability. You can face a loss of income from work absences or a dependence on government disability and fail to meet the high treatment costs for mental illnesses. Some people face bankruptcy, incarceration, foreclosure and homelessness as a result of their untreated mental illnesses.

A National Alliance on Mental Illness survey from 2003 found that over 70 percent of people with mental health issues earned $20,000 per year or less and 20 percent were subsisting on only $5,000 a year. The American Journal of Psychiatry performed a study revealing a 40 percent lower income among mentally ill people than among mentally healthy people. Approximately one-third of homeless people and 16 percent of prison inmates have an untreated mental illness. Getting mental health treatment early or as soon as possible can help individuals obtain financial stability and security.

Improves Family Life

Mental illness does not just affect the people suffering from an illness. It also affects their family. People with a mental illness may be more likely to abuse or neglect a child or other family member or exhibit an array of other inappropriate actions or behaviors. Having a mentally ill family member, particularly an untreated one, can prove troublesome in maintaining employment and a healthy mental state for a person.

It is important to seek professional help if you or someone in your family is experience common signs and symptoms of mental health issues. Your full and proper mental health maintenance should involve your whole family. As your mental health improves, so too will your relationships with those you love.

Victimization and Crime Avoidance

According to research, people with mental health issues left untreated may be more likely to commit violent crimes or become victims of violent crimes. Acts of violence by mentally ill individuals are most often committed against members of their own family. Crimes against mentally ill individuals are often left unreported, including theft of money, disability checks and property. According to a North Carolina Psychiatric Services study, unmedicated people with severe mental disorders were 2.7 times as likely as the general populace to commit a violent crime victim.

Happiness and Longevity

It is not uncommon for your mental health issues may go unnoticed by doctors and the people in your life. You may not even notice them yourself. They can affect your happiness and longevity, nonetheless. The British Medical Journal reported in 2012 that even a mild issue with mental health can lead to a reduced life expectancy. People with the highest degrees of anxiety or depression had a 94 percent greater risk of death, most commonly due to cardiovascular disease.

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