Mental health

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The scary truth is that ordinary human hatred and aggression are far more dangerous than any psychiatric illness. ~ Richard A. Friedman

Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is "functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life, and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community.


While the statistics note that some 20% of people are dealing with a mental health issue, “that impact is multiplied by three or four when you’re thinking about the impact on society. For example, if dad is depressed, he might not be going to work. His wife is feeling the effects of that. And so on. It spreads beyond” the person with the mental health problem, so it’s important to think about these figures in context of how they impact society at large. ~ Elaine K. Howley
People's willingness to interact with someone with a given disorder was best predicted by their belief about the communicability of that disorder, with other beliefs — about, for instance, the disorder's psychological basis and the extent to which an individual can control the symptoms she displays — playing a much smaller role. ~ Tania Lombrozo
Austerity, inequality and job insecurity are bad for mental health and governments should counteract them if they want to face up to the rising prevalence of mental illness, the UN’s top health envoy has said. ~ Mark Rice-Oxley
Different powerful groups within a society characterize social deviance in different ways, so the types of social deviance considered 'mental disorders' are a reflection of the relative influence of different institutions in the community at a particular point in time. ~ Michael R. Phillips
  • Millennials were found to be the most anxious generation. Women reported higher anxiety than men, and people of color scored 11 points higher on the anxiety scale than Whites. Research suggests that African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience a mental health disorder as opposed to the general population, but many factors may inhibit proper treatment. Only 25 percent of Blacks seek professional help, compared to 40 percent of Whites with mental health disorders. Daily stress can be an enemy of your mental health. It causes a chemical reaction that occurs when the body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. Your heart rate increases and blood pressure rises.
  • The call to defund the police is, I think... about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms... It’s about building anew... about rethinking the kind of future we want, the social future, the economic future, the political future.
    • Angela Davis, On Abolition, Calls to Defund Police, Toppled Racist Statues & Voting in 2020 Election, Democracy Now, (12 June 2020)
  • What we choose to define (and stigmatize) as 'mental illness' is itself a matter of politics. For instance, our perception of homosexuality as an identity instead of a disorder is a relatively recent development, made possible by decades of campaigning to depathologize it.
  • The scary truth is that ordinary human hatred and aggression are far more dangerous than any psychiatric illness.
    • Dr. Richard A. Friedman, "Why Mass Murderers May Not Be Very Different From You or Me", New York Times, (8 August 2019)
  • Abortion bans can also increase the risk of suicide. Medical exceptions to abortion bans in the US do not provide for psychological risks to life or health. This limitation prevents physicians from providing abortion care even if they have a well-founded fear that their patient will attempt suicide if forced to continue their pregnancy. Federal guidance regarding the provision of emergency medical care does not explicitly mention mental health under emergency medical conditions that may require abortion. In Dr. Drey’s experience, suicide risk is especially pronounced in some of her teenage patients who develop “post-traumatic stress disorder or suicidal ideation as a result of their pregnancies and make plans to commit suicide if they cannot obtain an abortion.” For individuals who have become pregnant as a result of rape, this risk can also be heightened, Dr. Drey explained.
    • Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of the Global Justice Center, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, National Birth Equity Collaborative, Physicians for Human Rights, Pregnancy Justice, “UN Special Procedures Letter US Abortion Rights”, (March 2, 2023), pp.10-11
  • Even in the most uncertain of times, the role of a manager remains the same: to support your team members. That includes supporting their mental health. The good news is that many of the tools you need to do so are the same ones that make you an effective manager. Be vulnerable. One silver lining of the pandemic is that it is normalizing mental health challenges...the universality of the experience will translate into a decrease in stigma only if people, especially people in power, share their experiences. Being honest about your mental health struggles as a leader opens the door for employees to feel comfortable talking with you about mental health challenges of their own...
    Model healthy behaviors. Don’t just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. More often than not, managers are so focused on their team’s well-being and on getting the work done that they forget to take care of themselves. Share that you’re taking a walk in the middle of the day, having a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a staycation (and actually turning off email) so that you don’t burn out... Sharing your own mental health challenges and modeling healthy behavior are two of the most important steps you can take.
    • Harvard Business Review, "8 Ways Managers Can Support Employees’ Mental Health by Kelly Greenwood and Natasha Krol", (7 August 2020)
  • Access to care is improving, but most Americans still have no access to care. The report states that 12.2% (5.3 million) adults with a mental illness remain uninsured, and 56.4% of adults with a mental illness received no treatment. “Over 24 million individuals experiencing a mental health illness are going untreated.” A severe shortage of mental health clinicians is adding to the problem.
  • Determining what’s causing these sharp increases is a complicated undertaking. Axelson says “there’s a lot of hypotheses, but there’s no definitive answer.” Still, the quick rise and pervasiveness of social media that’s been concurrent with these upticks in mental health disorders may play a role. At the same time, the amount of exercise most kids are getting daily has been steadily declining as physical education curriculums have been cut across the country.
    An increase in environmental toxins may also play a role. Axelson says the mental health trends reflected in the data have been showing up in the emergency room, putting strain on the system. “More and more kids are presenting to emergency rooms in crisis, and we’re noticing that trend at our hospital to the point we really needed to design a facility that was specialized.”
  • While the statistics note that some 20% of people are dealing with a mental health issue, “that impact is multiplied by three or four when you’re thinking about the impact on society. For example, if dad is depressed, he might not be going to work. His wife is feeling the effects of that. And so on. It spreads beyond” the person with the mental health problem, so it’s important to think about these figures in context of how they impact society at large.
  • What they’ve found is that when access to mental health services is increased, people do take advantage of that, but that shortages of mental health workers remain a big problem. “People can’t get care if they can’t find a child psychiatrist or a team, for example. If they’re struggling with a problem and you can’t find that care,” it almost doesn’t matter whether insurance will cover it.
  • Even in the best states, you have a 50-50 chance of getting care if you need it. That’s horrible,” she says, and the numbers highlight a real problem. Maine ranked the best in this measure, but still, 41.5% of adults in the state are not being treated for mental illness. Hawaii ranked the worst with 67.5% of adults going untreated.
  • Everyone thinks that the biggest problem in mental health’s depression, anxiety, suicide. Biggest problem in mental health is we’re all pretending we’ve got our shit together. First rule of mental health, no one’s got their shit together, and if everyone knew that no one’s got their shit together, we’d all be in a better place.
  • If you have a mental health condition, you're not alone. One in 5 American adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year. And across the population, 1 in every 25 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurring major depression....
  • As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not your fault or that of the people around you, but widespread misunderstandings about mental illness remain. Many people don't seek treatment or remain unaware that their symptoms could be connected to a mental health condition. People may expect a person with serious mental illness to look visibly different from others, and they may tell someone who doesn't "look ill" to "get over it" through willpower. These misperceptions add to the challenges of living with a mental health condition.
  • Every year people overcome the challenges of mental illness to do the things they enjoy. Through developing and following a treatment plan, you can dramatically reduce many of your symptoms. People with mental health conditions can and do pursue higher education, succeed in their careers, make friends and have relationships. Mental illness can slow us down, but we don't need to let it stop us.
  • Most people with mental illness are not violent. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence. Research on the relationship between mental illness and violence shows that there are certain factors that may increase risks of violence among a small number of individuals with mental illness.
  • ...guarding yourself against partnerships that want to suck the life out of you not because they share the same value, but because they like the fame you’re getting. So you need to be discerning in terms of working with people... Take care of your own mental health and well being because that is very important... there’s nothing impossible to do except you don’t just have the will to do it.
    • Oluwaseun Osowobi,Mental Health Oluwaseun Osowobi: Winner 2020 Nigeria's Hero Award, 20 December2020
  • Mental health is not for ‘mad people’. It is basically your psychological and emotional wellbeing.
    • Oluwaseun Osowobi, Things every teenager should understand about mental health, (27 July 2020)
  • As acceptance of mental illness has grown, the number of people seeking treatment has grown exponentially, overwhelming services in many countries. The phenomenon has divided experts into those who see mental illness as a predominantly biological, neurological malfunction, treatable by drugs and therapy, and those who believe it is much more psychosocial, the result of government policies, social atomisation, poverty, inequality and insecurity.
  • Different powerful groups within a society characterize social deviance in different ways, so the types of social deviance considered 'mental disorders' are a reflection of the relative influence of different institutions in the community at a particular point in time. In most Western countries the influence of the medical establishment and the high profile of psychiatry within medicine result in a strong tendency to medicalize many forms of social deviance, to label them as mental disorders, and to develop corresponding treatment facilities. However, based on my observations during a dozen years as a practising psychiatrist in China, the medical institutions there are relatively weak - medical care only accounts for 3.2 per cent of GNP - and psychiatry has a very low status within medicine. The influence of medical and psychiatric institutions on the understanding and management of socially deviant behaviours is correspondingly small and the range of available mental health services is quite limited.
    • Michael R. Phillips, [1], The China Journal, No. 39 (Jan., 1998), p. 1
  • There is evidence of a positive relation between level of activity and mental health. Involvement in physical activity may prevent the onset of mental health problems or may ameliorate such problems before they escalate to levels of clinical relevance. Exercise has been shown to help reduce the effects of insomnia, stress, depression, and chronic illness. It also plays a vital part in improved weight control, body image, and, especially in the case of the elderly population, independence. Physical activity can also provide an alternative to alcohol and substance misuse and may help patients who have mild to moderate depression.
  • It is not known if an exercise programme will enhance psychological variables in women who are not experiencing defined mental health problems. Most research on the effects of exercise on mental health has used young and middle aged subjects or has been conducted in clinical settings. There is a paucity of research on the influence of exercise on the mental health of older healthy women.
  • Humans are a dangerously insane and very sick species. That's not a judgment. It's a fact. It is also a fact that the sanity is there underneath the madness. Healing and redemption are available right now.
    See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge.
    When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness. p.56
  • Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing. Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. Don't let the fear rise up into your mind. Use the power of the Now. Fear cannot prevail against it.
    If there is truly nothing that you can do to change your here and now, and you can't remove yourself from the situation, then accept your here and now totally by dropping all inner resistance. The false, unhappy self that loves feeling miserable, resentful, or sorry for itself can then no longer survive. This is called surrender. Surrender is not weakness. There is great strength in it. Only a surrendered person has spiritual power.
  • Modern-day mental-health practitioners often look back at previous generations of psychiatrists and psychologists with a thinly veiled pity, wondering how they could have been so swept away by the [[cultural currents of their time. The confident pronouncements of Victorian-era doctors regarding the epidemic of hysterical women are now dismissed as cultural artifacts. Similarly, illnesses found only in other cultures are often treated like carnival sideshows. Koro, amok and the like can be found far back in the American diagnostic manual (DSM-IV, Pages 845-849) under the heading “culture-bound syndromes.” Given the attention they get, they might as well be labeled “Psychiatric Exotica: Two Bits a Gander.”
    Western mental-health practitioners often prefer to believe that the 844 pages of the DSM-IV prior to the inclusion of culture-bound syndromes describe real disorders of the mind, illnesses with symptomatology and outcomes relatively unaffected by shifting cultural beliefs. And, it logically follows, if these disorders are unaffected by culture, then they are surely universal to humans everywhere. In this view, the DSM is a field guide to the world’s psyche, and applying it around the world represents simply the brave march of scientific knowledge.
  • I've spent most of my professional life counseling people in despair... people don't usually come to me because things are going well... I know the emotional terrain of desperation fairly well. Such ground is no longer shocking to me. It has a strange familiarity. Since groups of people are simply a collection of individuals, the same psychological principles apply to a collective as to one person. The desperate group in question now is the people of the United States. To put it simply, America is having a nervous breakdown. A spiritual crisis. A complete disassembling of the personality after which a more authentic self might emerge.
    Yet for that transformation to occur, as a nation, we're going to have to do the work any individual must do to turn such a crisis into an opportunity. It won't be easy... But ultimately, if we're to emerge intact, we're going to have to do what anyone must do at such a time as this. We're going to have to look in the mirror. We're going to have to take full responsibility for the thoughts and actions that led us here. Then, and only then, will we be on the path to recovery.

"Issues and Implications, Abortion Restrictions and the Drive for Mental Health Parity: A Conflict in Values?" (June 1999)


Dailard, Cynthia (June 1999). "Issues and Implications, Abortion Restrictions and the Drive for Mental Health Parity: A Conflict in Values?". The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. 2 (3).

The mental health exception is also critical because it has been the aegis under which most abortions in cases of severe fetal abnormality have been justified.
  • [A] number of measures have been introduced in recent years—largely by prochoice legislators—that treat women seeking abortions for mental health reasons differently from those with physical health concerns. While these initiatives first grew out of a perceived need among many prochoice legislators for a political alternative to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, they have significant implications within the larger abortion-rights context—and beyond.
  • The debate over the health exception took on a surprising new twist, however, when prochoice legislators began seeking to exclude mental health from the equation in the context of "late" abortions. Searching for "common ground" in the debate over so-called partial-birth abortions, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) drafted the Comprehensive Abortion Ban Act, which would make all abortions after viability illegal unless continuation of the pregnancy would threaten the woman's life or "risk grievous injury to her physical health" (emphasis added). Daschle's proposal, which was offered but rejected in May 1997 as an amendment to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, would have excluded the possibility of a postviability abortion for any mental health condition, no matter how severe. (The mental health exception is also critical because it has been the aegis under which most abortions in cases of severe fetal abnormality have been justified.)
    Just over one year later, in September 1998, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), another consistent supporter of reproductive rights, went a step further. With a bipartisan group of prochoice senators, he introduced the Late-Term Abortion Limitation Act, which incorporates Daschle's proposal, including its distinction between physical and mental health conditions, but adds another requirement—that a second physician, not involved in performing the abortion, be consulted to certify that the reason for the abortion meets the narrow requirements of the bill. Durbin is expected to reintroduce his bill again within the coming months.
  • The willingness of some prochoice members to sacrifice the mental health exception in order to appear "reasonable" in the context of the postviability abortion debate is beginning to have significant repercussions beyond that specific issue, seriously reviving a legislative attack on abortion rights that largely has been dormant for two decades. For example, the Medicaid abortion funding ban (commonly known as the Hyde amendment) has included an exception to the prohibition in cases of life endangerment since it was first enacted in 1976. Taking a predictable turn in the wake of the Daschle initiative, Hyde successfully narrowed his language in 1997 to permit abortions to be funded under Medicaid only when a woman's life is endangered by "a physical disorder, a physical injury, or physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself" (emphasis added). It had not been since the late 1970s, when the Hyde amendment in FY 1978 and FY 1979 also contained an exception for "severe and long-lasting physical health damage" (emphasis added), that the legitimacy of a mental health exception had been seriously debated and rejected.
  • In a recent Legal Times article, Janet Benshoof and Laura Ciolkowski, of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, charge that some prochoice legislators have consciously bought into the antiabortion movement's "devaluation of women's mental health." Whether or not this is true, recent actions beg the question of why providing equitable treatment for people with mental illness is gaining currency in virtually every public policy context except abortion, where it is fast losing ground. Indeed, the voting records of the 29 senators who voted both for the Daschle amendment and on the Mental Health Parity Act highlight this troubling contradiction: 23 of those 29—all of whom were prochoice or had mixed voting records—voted in favor of the Parity Act. In other words, they took the position that in the insurance context, mental health concerns are sufficiently legitimate to warrant equitable treatment with physical health concerns but that mental health concerns can never present a sufficiently grave threat to a woman's health to justify a postviability abortion.

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