Social Factors Affecting Mental Health

The word ‘wellness’ refers to a combination of physical and mental health. Usually, people are more conscious or concerned about their physical health. When something is wrong with the body, people find it easier to look for a cause damaging it, sometimes by themselves or sometimes with the help of a doctor. That is why it seems easier to cure the disease. But what happens when it comes to mental health? Just like our physical wellbeing, many factors affect our mental health. They may be related to the environment, biology, work, economy, nutrition, family etc. 

We are called ‘social animals’ as we live in a society. The kind of society we live in contributes a lot to shaping up a person’s mental health. A person’s way of thinking, his mindset, perspectives, attitude – everything develops according to the atmosphere he lives in. A person’s behaviour reflects the society he has been brought up in. A survey on mental health in India was undertaken in the rear 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 7.5 per cent of Indians were suffering from some or the other kind of mental disorder. Moreover, according to the numbers, around 56 million Indians suffer from depression and another 38 million suffer from anxiety disorders. The reasons, of course, may be different; but somewhere it seems we urgently need to fix some aspects to create a better and healthy society. It has been observed that some social factors are responsible for worsening mental health conditions. Let us have a look at them.  

  1. Childhood Trauma 

Sometimes people are seen having low self-esteem, mood swings such as anger, anxiety and depression, confusion or issues with concentration and memory. All these may be the aftershocks of a past event or something that happened during childhood. The form of such traumas can vary. It could have been violence, domestic abuse, sexual, physical, or mental abuse, child trafficking, child labour, bullying etc. Apart from violence, the roots of mental disorders can be in the form of injury, neglect, or negligence treatment as well. Such kind of abuses can take place anywhere – be it their home, school, orphanage, street, workplace, prisons, or residential care facilities. All forms of such violence, abuse, trauma, or exploitation have long-lasting consequences on people’s lives. If not solved for a long time, it can form a very deep impact on the overall development of a person. Worse than this, the trauma may replace itself with a more complex psychological issue. 

  1. Social Isolation / Loneliness

We all feel lonely at some or other point in time. Everyone’s experience of feeling lonely is different. There are times when we all enjoy our ‘me’ time. There are times when we all enjoy being ‘alone’. Spending time with yourself is great, but when you crave someone’s company, and you do not have anyone with you; you actually feel ‘lonely’. ‘Being alone’ and ‘feeling lonely’ are, this way, two different things. ‘Aloneness’ can be a state when we love spending time with ourselves, but ‘loneliness’ is one when we want to be with people, and we do not have any. We all go through this phase of ‘loneliness’ at some or other time, but if this prolongs and lasts for long, it may cause harm to your health. 

Everyone wants love and acceptance. But when people are lonely for a longer period, their loneliness often causes them to feel empty, alone, and unwanted. Sometimes they want to be with someone, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people. Contributing factors to loneliness include situational variables, such as physical isolation, moving to a new location without loved ones, divorce. Additionally, it can cause other mental health issues like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, lack of confidence. If not treated on time, it can cause some serious health issues like Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and suicide as well. 

  1. Experiencing Discrimination

When a person is ignored or isolated based on a personal trait or any aspect of his life, he is called a ‘victim of discrimination’. Grounds for discrimination can be many, like age, race, skin colour, social and financial status, disability, gender, status as a parent, caste, religion, nationality, pregnancy sexual harassment etc. Discrimination can strike you at any place or any stage of your life. It can happen anywhere – home, workplace, restaurant, job interview, sports stadiums, hospitals, and many more to add to the list. Discrimination can be reflected in any form of behaviour: bullying, neglecting, taunting, isolating, gossiping, mocking, insulting, humiliating, passing abusive comments, threatening etc. Neither can anybody nor the person himself sometimes understand how deeply these can impact his emotional state. Strong people often fight for their right as a human, but there are times when people seem to have no control over it. In such instants, it can ruin mental health. Most commonly it’s observed that the victim experiences feelings of shame, hopelessness and loneliness. Low self-esteem prevents them to ask for help. It can be so traumatic that it can give birth to mental and physical illnesses like stress, anxiety disorders, depression, high blood pressure, and chronic illnesses. If left untreated, it can even lead to suicidal behaviours.

  1. Bereavement (Losing Someone Close to You)

Death is an unavoidable part of life and it’s overwhelming for everyone to go through a personal loss. Losing a near and dear one to death can be exceedingly difficult to cope with. It can hit people of all ages extremely hard. People experience bereavement in different ways. While there are several common feelings that people go through, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Everyone has a different way to cope with the loss. Some manage to live with time, while some cannot. Numbness, loneliness, emptiness, resentment, confusion, grief, guilt, anger, agitation, loss of interest – are some common feelings a person goes through after having a personal loss. These are temporary effects that may disappear with days, months, or years. However, if they persist for a longer period, depression and anxiety may take over and ruin mental health. 

  1. Severe or Chronic Stress Due to Outer Factors

Stress is one of the most common feelings felt by everyone. It is the body’s reaction to harmful situations – whether real or hypothetical. It can be caused by anything. Be it traffic or work pressure or familial tensions. The causes can vary from person to person. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. Well, it’s a fact that all stress is not bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. Moreover, our bodies also are designed to handle small doses of stress. But we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences. Small term consequences disappear after a certain time, but if they persist for long, it can be harmful to your mind and body both. 

Chronic stress may lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. It can lead to some serious physical health issues too. Cardiovascular disease including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke can be caused by chronic stress and proved fatal at times. Moreover, it can give rise to other physical health issues like eating disorders, menstrual problems in women, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems like gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon. So, it’s advisable to cure stress before it harms life.   

  1. Unemployment or Losing Your Job

Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges that India have been facing for quite a long period. Today also the youth seem struggling to get a secured job. Having a job only is not important. Feeling secured while working is equally required. Losing a job and being unemployed for a long period can be psychological and financial trauma. These two are closely interconnected. Work provides time structure, identity, purpose and most importantly it provides social interactions with others. So, it’s quite obvious that when you lose your job, you lose all these things as well. And when you lose all that, it creates a lot of difficulties for people.

Secondly, those at the most risk for mental health challenges after a job loss are those for whom unemployment is an immediate threat to survival. People with fewer financial resources and those who perceive more financial strain from unemployment are less satisfied with their lives. Unemployed people are more distressed; less satisfied with their lives, marriages, and families; and more likely to report psychological problems than the employed. Job loss is damaging to mental health, rather than people with poorer mental health being more likely to experience unemployment. The longer the stretch of unemployment, the worse effects it has on people’s state of mind. Many of these people will need psychological support. Research suggests that a mental-health-informed approach is not just helpful, it is required. The mental health impacts of today’s job losses are likely to be significant, given a large body of research showing that unemployment is linked to anxiety, depression, and loss of life satisfaction, among other negative outcomes. 

  1. Homelessness or Poor Housing

Poverty is one of the causes of homelessness. People who do not have stable housing are more prone to mental illnesses. Mental illness and homelessness both have an awfully close relationship. We can say that theirs is a two-way relationship. An individual’s mental illness may lead to cognitive and behavioural problems. These problems make it difficult to earn a stable income or to carry out daily activities in ways that encourage stable housing. Several studies have shown, however, that individuals with mental illnesses often find themselves homeless primarily as the result of poverty and a lack of low-income housing. The combination of mental illness and homelessness also can lead to other factors such as increased levels of alcohol and drug abuse and violent victimization that reinforce the connection between health and homelessness.

Homelessness, in turn, amplifies poor mental health. The stress of experiencing homelessness may exacerbate previous mental illness and encourage anxiety, fear, depression, sleeplessness, and substance use. The needs of people experiencing homelessness with mental illnesses are like those without mental illnesses: physical safety, education, transportation, affordable housing, and affordable medical/dental treatment.

  1. Physical Ailments: 

Physical illnesses too contribute a lot in destroying mental health. Those who suffer from some or the other long-lasting illnesses are more prone to have mental sickness. As their body doesn’t support them, their psychological condition too deteriorates. Apart from chronic diseases other problems like some head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behaviour and mood. It’s important here to notice that to rule out potential physical causes before seeking further treatment for a mental health problem.Although lifestyle factors including work, diet, drugs, and lack of sleep can all affect your mental health, if you experience a mental health problem there are usually other factors as well.

Here, we have seen that mental diseases are caused by various factors. It is important to know the roots. The society we live in too plays a huge role in shaping up a person’s mental health.To improve the quality of life it is mandatory for us to create a better society.

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