The past Century has been a boom for the understanding of what constitutes mental health. Psychology, biology and neurochemistry are all a part of studying mental health and researching issues that you may be assigned for research papers. Paper Masters has professional research paper writers that will teach you how to write a research paper on mental health for any college class.
Mental health is defined by the Surgeon General as "the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity". Although expectations for mental health may differ between cultures, in most cases individuals reflect strong mental health if they exhibit many of the following characteristics.
- Mental health may refer to a sense of well-being and contentment.
- Emotionally healthy people have the ability to enjoy life, cope with life's stresses and maintain happiness despite adversity.
- Self-realization, or the participation in meaningful activities, and flexibility, or the ability to change and grow and circumstances change, also reflect strong mental health.
- Mentally healthy people can balance their lives and create a sense of well-roundedness.
- Finally, they care for themselves and others and have strong self-esteem.
If someone is unable to perform the activities listed above, they may suffer from mental illness. Problems with mental health can be temporary. Many people suffer for a short time if they experience a painful event, illness, or loss. However, long-term mental distress can begin to affect other areas of one's life.
People in high risk categories include those who are homeless, incarcerated or institutionalized. Minorities are over-represented in these groups. These subgroups have higher rates of mental health issues and often do not receive adequate services, which may exacerbate their conditions. Research has confirmed that the increased rate of occurrence in these populations is not due to characteristics such as race or gender, but is due to environmental circumstances.
Mental Health VS Mental Illness
When mental illness was first addressed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the United States, people who suffered from it were subjected to several forms of deplorable treatment. It is believed that prior to that time families were expected to keep mentally ill relatives locked up inside and away from society. The mentally ill were considered either possessed by demons or characterized as inhuman and incapable of feeling pain. Physical abuse, and mental abuse was common. Institutions used physical restraints, straight-jackets, or heavy arm and leg chains.
Over the past century, both governmental and non-profit agencies have acknowledged the mental health issue and have worked toward ensuring that people who need help can get it. In the nineteenth century, two advocates who spoke out against abuse of the mentally ill were Phillip Pinel and Dorthea Dix. Conditions improved slightly due to their efforts but were still far from ideal.
Several theories have been suggested to explain the cause of mental illness. However, the most overwhelmingly medically-supported cause is biological. Two significant supporting arguments toward the biological position include that types of mental illness can be classified in the DSM-IV. Next, mental illness must be biological because it can be treated effectively with psychoactive drugs. Critics of the biological approach maintain that the DSM-IV classification is artificial and does not apply to all individuals with mental illness. In fact, several sociologists have published articles suggesting that the DSM classifications are the product of the politics of psychiatry rather than by evidence.
The development of psychoactive drugs has helped thousands of people cope with mental illness. However, studies conducted over long periods of time rarely show prolonged improvement in patients. Side effects are well-documented and can be benign or very harmful. For instance, prolonged use of Thorazine has been shown to cause neurological damage. The fact that medication is not a cure for mental illness has led some researchers to explore other causes.
Many experts believe that the most accurate theory of causation is the biopsychosocial model. This theory maintains that aspects of a person's biology, personal traits and experiences, and environment contribute to the development of mental illness. Treatment should therefore not only involve medication, but also psychotherapy and environmental management. Indeed, studies show that medication and therapy are more effective that medication alone.
Another theory regarding the cause of mental illness is the diathesis-stress model. This theorizes that a person may have a predisposition for an illness, perhaps due to family history. However, the illness may not develop unless the person experiences a traumatic event that causes the illness to emerge. Both the diathesis-stress model and the biopsychosocial model take into account a person's personality, background and environment as well as biological traits.
Psychiatrists are the only medical specialists who treat people with disorders that have no known causes or cures. Critics have voiced the opinion that when medical diagnoses are given, the cause is known. Also, the fact that medication stops behavior does not prove that mental illness exists. These arguments lead to debates regarding the values that underlie the problem of mental illness. Mental illness only exists in relation to expectations in society. If thinking, emotions, or behavior are socially unacceptable, then they are classified as abnormal. Mental illness may in fact be a consequence of cultural bias.
Labeling Mental Illness
Various groups have been oppressed by the label of mental illness. For instance, women who were disinterested in domestic tasks once were felt to be mentally ill. Until 1973, homosexuality was listed in the DSM as a mental illness. Due to social pressure, it was dropped in the DSM-III. No medical condition, such as cancer or diabetes, would be excluded from the category of "disease" by a vote of doctors. However the definition of mental illness is so entrenched in social values that it changes over time. Stevens explains that diagnosing people with an illness because their behavior does not match society's expectation is harmful because it distracts people from the real problems that people face. Educating people on how to adapt to society may be a better avenue for treatment than drugs and therapy.
Mental illness is broadly defined as a condition in which a person experiences a loss in mental function to the point where he or she cannot maintain relationships or quality of life. Studies show that people in all walks of life are equally vulnerable to mental illness. Over time, the stigma toward mental illness has diminished to the point where treatment is available and humane. However, the mentally ill continue to be misunderstood. Unfortunately, debates over the causes of mental illness, and even if it exists independent of society's values and ideals, may be hindering progress toward the treatment of the issue. Perhaps as research continues we will discover the causes for mental illness and will learn how best to help people who suffer from it.