According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

Looking after one’s mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life as it affects our daily living, relationships, and physical health.
However, mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can also affect mental health. The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as a health condition that involves “changes in emotion, thinking, or behaviour—or a combination of these.”

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Everyone experiences highs and lows in their mental health. They can experience a certain high when they get a streak of good luck, and then low moments when they go through a devastating experience such as rejection or the loss of someone dear. An experience like that could temporarily affect a person’s psychological well-being negatively. But for such an instance to be considered a mental illness, the person must show signs of that experience affecting their normal routine and life and it must also last for a definite period.

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What other ways can you identify that you or someone around you is suffering from a mental illness then?

1. Excessive fear or uneasiness: When someone tends to feel afraid excessively, anxious, nervous, or panicked, then the person could have a mental illness.

2. Mood changes: This is another symptom of mental illness characterised by deep sadness, inability to express joy, indifference to situations, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide as well.

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3. Problems thinking: When a person can not concentrate or has unexplainable problems with memory, thoughts, or speech, it is possible that such a person could be suffering from a mental illness and should be looked into.

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4. Sleep or appetite changes: A person could also be suffering from a mental illness when there is a dramatic increase or decrease in their sleeping and eating or there is noticeable and rapid weight gain or loss.

5. Withdrawal: Perhaps the most obvious sign of a mental illness is when the person sits and does nothing for a long time and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.

It is important to note that having just one or two of these signs only doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a mental illness. But it would still call for attention and you should still get professional help as soon as possible.

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In conclusion, we live in a part of the world where we are faced with so many bad experiences that consequently scar us. And even though many people appear to be tough on the outside, some of them are dealing with one mental illness or the other. Before now, hardly did the average Nigerian know what is called mental health much less pay attention to it. We must realize that our mental health is just as important as any other aspect of our lives. And it is not an abominable thing to need help mentally.

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Acting tough may help you to satisfy your ego and bury the inevitable, but that will only last short-term. You need to open up to someone you trust and get professional help as soon as you can. You can get better and that should be your priority, not what people would say about you or how you might be considered weak and not strong.

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Oluwadamilola is a student of English at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a creative writer and author. When she's not writing, she loves to read books and articles from which she gets inspiration that spur her own writings. She also loves to cook, and it's a good thing because she loves good food!

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