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What is good mental health

There is much more awareness in recent years of the symptoms or issues related to Mental Health Difficulties but what is equally important in prevention of these difficulties is understanding what constitutes good mental health and how we maintain this despite the many adversities we each have to face on a daily basis.

Autism and ADHD are not mental health problems. However both of these conditions may also present with anxiety, low mood and obsessive/compulsive behaviours. It is also equally possible to have Autism and or ADHD and very good mental health just like anyone else.

What is Mental health

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life , can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for individual wellbeing and the effective functioning of a community (WHO).

Good mental health enables us to

  • Develop emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually

  • Initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships

  • Face problems, resolve them and learn from them

  • Be confident and assertive

  • Be aware of others and empathise with them

  • Use and enjoy solitude

  • Play and have fun

  • Laugh, both at themselves and at the world.

There are certain factors we know that can lead to mental ill-health and it is important we are all aware of them.

  • Self-esteem

  • Stigma/social disability

  • Loss- impact of life events

  • Teasing/bullying

  • Loneliness- rejected by peers, wanting friendships

  • Deprivation

  • Difficulties in the Family

Recognising Mental Health Problems

It is important to recognise that many of our young people may not be able to fully describe how they are feeling in terms of their low mood or anxiety.

They may present with subtle features such as a reduction in self-esteem, no longer enjoying activities that previously bought them much joy, change in sleep/ eating pattern, fatigue or general health complaints such as recurrent headaches, tummy pain or other non specific symptoms. Some of our young people may begin self medicating with things such as alcohol or drugs. There may be increased social withdrawal or School refusal.

I feel it is also important to highlight that undiagnosed/untreated ASD or ADHD can lead to the onset of depression/anxiety.

If you as a Parent/Teacher or Friend are worried it is important to seek advice even if you cannot be specific about symptoms. Never ignore your “gut feeling”. In addressing these issues with young people if they find it difficult to talk about their feelings they can write them down, draw, pick a song/poem or a movie scene to describe what they currently feel. It may be helpful to use the terms positive and negative feelings rather than mental health or for younger children to use numbers on a scale from 1-5 in visual format.

Promoting good mental health

This should come from all environments that the young person is in. Strategies should aim to promote positive emotions, positive moods and positive attitudes.

Set simple time limited goals ie coming down from room for half an hour each day for family time, going for a short walk each day.

Work on emotional literacy is important ie helping the young person recognise patterns of behaviour they show and give them the skills to be flexible in their behaviours to achieve what they want.

Relaxation and exercise should be important components of everbody’s daily routine to enable us to cope with the stresses of daily life. Walking, running, swimming, gym , exercise dvds, and any other activity that the young person feels confident doing regularly will be of benefit even if this is going on their trampoline or going to the park to run about. Music, massage, time out, sleep, Art, stress ball, pleasures book and repetitive actions are also helpful as well as sensory activities.

Mentoring friendships, supports in School, anger and anxiety management and visual cues promoting positive behaviours can also be used. Mindfulness techniques, Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Breathing exercises can be helpful when used on a regular basis.

If at any stage there is a deterioration in mood, self harm or talk of harm to self then GP or out of hours services should be contacted with immediate safety measures and monitoring of the young person in the interim.


  • – for Parents, young people and professionals with concerns about a young person’s emotions or behaviour. Parent support line 08088025544

  • – information for all on mental health

  • a helpful app for meditation and mindfulness

  • – Professor Tony Attwood’s website with lots of useful ideas on emotional literacy, anger management and CBT approaches. His books on exploring feelings a CBT approach to Anxiety and Anger management are also very helpful

  • – a CBT programme for young people with anxiety

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