What is Mental Health?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” 
This year the theme of International World Mental Health Day is Suicide Prevention. It is an initiative that is welcomed and appreciable because, through mental health, it is important to highlight the gravity and seriousness of suicidal behaviour as the most serious and fatal result of mental health issues. While unsound mental health is a cause for grave concern, suicidal behaviour must be addressed at the earliest with appropriate interventions to prevent the act of suicide and death.
The Causes of Mental Illness
Mental illness although preventable is complex to understand. The causes of Mental health issues or mental illness are sometimes vague and complicated. Mental health is not simple to ascertain like other physical diseases such as dengue or malaria for example, wherein the cause and treatment are clear-cut.
Mental illness can occur at any age and although there are certain widely-acknowledged causes for mental illnesses, it is still hard to determine what exactly causes mental illness. For example, it is hard to say if childhood trauma alone can cause mental illness in someone.
According to Health Direct, a subsidiary organization of the Govt. of Australia, the following are the causes of mental illness:
- Genetics: If the patient or victim of mental illness has a family member who also experienced or is experiencing mental illness, the chances of the former having the same increase. However, this is not a deciding factor in mental illness. There are victims with a family history of mental illness but are of sound mind.
- Drugs and Alcohol abuse: a heavy dependence on drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines can have very serious effects on mental health in the form of bipolar disorders, paranoia or psychosis.
- Biological factors such as hormonal changes especially in women going through menopause and those suffering from a polycystic ovarian syndrome that delays menstrual cycles.
- Life events which can occur at any phase of an individual’s life such as a traumatic childhood, abusive marriages and relationships, loneliness etc.
- Social circumstances such as a recession, losing one’s job, a war, natural disasters such as floods or famine where one may lose property and the lives of loved ones.
- The above factors also give rise to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- One’s personality and personal nature can also be a factor causing mental illness in the person. If the person suffers from low self-esteem, is an introvert which may prevent the person from seeking help and lacks confidence, these can trigger mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Although these factors are listed as causes in this article, this is not an exhaustive list of the causes of mental illness. It is therefore recommended to read more resources on mental illness and talk to professionals if you or someone you know is having trouble emotionally and mentally.
World Mental Health Day 2019
Several diseases and conditions have special days allotted to highlight their severity. This is because these diseases can be “seen” and “treated” while mental illness is a disease that is not easily discoverable. Sometimes, unhealthy mental behaviours may seem obvious by way of the victim using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety but, in other cases, persons undergoing mental health issues may not exhibit the symptoms. This could be because they don’t know how to express themselves, are embarrassed about confessing they are having emotional or mental troubles and thirdly they think that people around them may not take them seriously and/or judge them.
‘Suicide Prevention’ as the Theme for World Mental Health Day
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide”
This year, the central theme of world mental health day is the prevention of suicide. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), states that, globally, every year 800,000 deaths are the result of suicide making suicide as one of the top 20 leading causes of death. It is crucial to talk about suicide because firstly it is a preventable action. When the mental stress or depression causing it is addressed, suicide can be easily prevented. This is why suicide prevention as the theme of mental health day is an important step by the international community. It is important for people to know the close connection between mental illness and suicide. Understanding both and addressing them with the right approaches can save lives and families.
Various organizations on the regional, national and international stage observe World Mental Health Day on October 10th every year. The objective is to highlight mental illness, its seriousness and treatment at the global level as mental illness has the possibility of affecting any individual regardless of age, sex, race, place of living etc.
The WHO states that World Mental Health Day is observed with the very important objectives of with “raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health” (WHO, 2019). World Mental Health Day gives people and organizations all over the world to amplify their efforts and activities in the service of preserving mental health. At the same time, this day is also important to discuss learnings and knowledge on the subject to increase success rates in mental illness prevention.
 What is Mental Health?, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
 Causes of Mental Illness, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/causes-of-mental-illness