Mental health is something that has been under the spotlight over the years, and it should be as it is a crucial aspect of our lives. While so much focus has been on the physical body in healthcare, the mental element still needs to catch up. Not long ago, many treatments for mental illness involved rather barbaric procedures such as brain operations or getting locked up in a mental institution. Thankfully, our understanding has changed, and with courses such as the Bachelor of Psychology or the online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, more clinicians have a well-rounded perspective. This article will review some of the external factors influencing our mental states.
Social Factors Influencing Mental Health and Their Impact
The link between social factors and mental health is complex and intriguing but plays a pivotal role in our cognitive development from childhood. No one is an island; our relationships can either support our mental well-being or make it go downhill. Let’s examine how social factors impact our mental health through the family unit and beyond.
The Importance of the Family Unit
To say that the family unit doesn’t affect your mental health would be a severe underestimation. Everything from your early development to your support system later in life usually comes from your close family, and even those without blood relatives usually have supportive relationships as it’s a vital part of being human.
If you’ve seen troubled, depressed and mentally troubled individuals, you’ve probably noticed that these issues stem from family problems, such as abusive relationships or environments. It’s not only essential to be close to your family, but it is also vital to maintain positive relationships over time because, in times of severe stress, your family will be there for you in times of need.
Social Support and External Stressors
Social factors can be very complicated when moving outside the family structure. Still, these more external constructs have played a vital part in interpreting ourselves and the world. Supportive relationships with friends, peers and colleagues make us feel that we belong and help boost our self-esteem, reducing the risk of mental health issues.
On the other hand, external stressors such as workplace pressure, societal expectations and discrimination can hurt our mental well-being. The constant pressure to meet specific standards or conform to certain norms can create immense stress and mental health problems. It is essential for individuals to have a robust support system in place to cope with external stressors and maintain their mental well-being.
Environmental Factors and The Effect on Mental Health and Brain Development
The link between environmental factors and mental health is gaining much traction. With the industrialisation of our environment, pollution, and climate change, many are linking these changes to the population’s overall mental health decline. There might be something to these claims, making them worthy of further investigation.
The Importance of Clean Air in Mental Health
The body runs on oxygen, one of the most critical elements for survival that we often take for granted. But many don’t realize that air quality can also impact our physical and mental health in many ways. While you might not notice it initially, if you’re breathing in toxins over time, they can quickly accumulate and cause many health complications.
An array of particles and pollutants in the air can infiltrate the brain and cause mild to severe cases of inflammation. Even at low doses, these pollutants, over time, can become critical drivers of mental health issues as the inflammation triggers stress responses that can drive depression and anxiety. Even more concerning is that young children exposed to air pollutants may develop cognitive impairments as they age, making them vulnerable to mental health issues in the future.
Living Conditions, Weather and Population
When considering mental health issues, living conditions, weather, and population density are significant environmental factors. Living in crowded or impoverished conditions can increase stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges due to noise pollution, lack of privacy, and limited access to essential resources. When we look at those with poor living conditions, it is evident that these factors can contribute to poor mental health outcomes.
If you’ve ever noticed your mood change with the seasons, then you know that weather can also play a significant role in mental health. Conditions such as seasonal affective disorder are very real and linked to changes in sunlight exposure during different seasons. This is directly correlated to the amount of vitamin D we absorb from the sunlight, and over time, can lead to mental and physical health complications if left untreated.
While we are still learning about what impacts mental health and what we can do about it, there is clear evidence that the environment has a solid impact on our mental well-being. In reality, our environment isn’t separate from us, and the quality of the environment can also impact the rates of our body and mind. But by understanding this and what might be affecting our mental state, we can continue to make better decisions that will impact our health for the better.