Written by Geraldine Muteka


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24 May, 2022

What is mental health?

With the focus on mental health awareness in the month of May, it is the right time for us to consider what mental health is. 

All the different definitions meet at one point and that is that mental health is your emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It speaks to how we think, feel and act and therefore is directly connected to our thoughts, our mood, and our behavior. It speaks to how we handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions. 

From the above it is clear that mental health is important throughout our lives. Whether we are children or adults, we are in relationship with others, and we need to make decisions and we will experience stress. 

Although health predominantly is seen as the absence of illness, it is important to state that being in poor mental health does not necessarily mean that one has a mental illness, nor does the absence of illness mean that one is “well”. One’s wellbeing can be compromised without having a diagnosed illness. 

Current research shows that poor mental health can be caused by biological factors and/or trauma. We also refer to the biological factors as nature, which will include our genes, our brain chemistry, and any hereditary contributions. We can also refer to trauma and other forms of abuse or mistreatment from the environment we live or lived in. 

Mental health, like physical health, operates on a continuum. ie. there is a line on which we move from complete mental health (if such a state even exists) to severe mental illness. People fall on different points on this spectrum. 

For example: You may have a friend who has been diagnosed as having major depressive disorder where her mood impacts her daily functioning and at the same time you may have a colleague who experiences low mood and low self-esteem and she is still able to continue with daily functioning.  

What do you do with this information now, especially at the workplace? May I offer to you the gift of compassionate curiosity specific about mental health? You can choose to use this information as an opportunity to learn more about mental health. When you get curious, you can increase your learning and when you increase your learning and awareness you can show up differently in your interactions with people. 

Many times, the best we can do is show up with awareness. We may not understand and people may not behave the way we would have, but we can have compassion and awareness can increase our compassion. In the words of Carla Stokes, “Walk gently in the lives of others. Not all wounds are visible.”

May I further offer the possibility of exploring your own emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing with the same compassionate curiosity. What if walking gently in the lives of others, started with walking gently in your own life. 

‘Till the next post

Stay committed to your growth … 


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