Mental health is a very tricky thing. Because it is not physical or visible, mental illnesses are difficult to identify, especially because everybody presents symptoms differently. There are several risk factors that can affect one’s mental health by contributing to a mental illness or mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders.
The following are eleven different types of mental health risk factors:
1. Past mental illnesses
Having had a mental illness in the past makes it more likely that the individual will suffer from a mental illness again. It is important for individuals who have suffered from mental illnesses to take care of their mental health even when symptoms of their mental illness have gone away.
2. Childhood separation from caregiver
Being separated from the primary caregiver at a young age, whether that be the biological parent or not, can hinder a child’s social and emotional development. Many symptoms of mental illness can be developed as a result of such a separation, including high levels of stress and anxiety, and feelings of abandonment and insecurity.
Although bullying is often a bigger problem during childhood and adolescence, it can cause long-term problems, and it doesn’t always stop as people get older. Bullying can severely affect a child’s life skills development. The constant negative feedback fed to them through bullying encourages them to think negatively about themselves.
The longer it goes on, the more likely it will result in severe mental health risk factors that will last well into the individual’s adulthood, and possibly forever.
4. Family conflict
Damaging for anybody, but especially for children who are still in the developing stages of their lives, family conflict can be another cause of mental illness. Problems at home take away the feeling of safety for children who have not had the chance to develop emotionally yet. The behaviours children will develop as a result, which is a direct response to the feeling that no place is safe, can cause anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
5. Mental illness in the family
If there are cases of mental illness in other family members, then it is more likely that an individual will develop a mental illness as well. The chances of mental health issues being inherited from ancestors is about 80 percent, and is currently the highest known risk factor.
Not related to genetics, but highly related to environment, individuals who grow up in a household with an individual suffering from a mental illness are also at higher risk.
6. Death of a loved one
The unexpected death of a loved one is known to increase the chances that an individual will develop a mental illness. Specifically, the grieving period people go through directly after a death is the time when the individual is at the highest risk.
7. Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use
The effects of drugs and alcohol can enhance or trigger mental health risk factors. This does not necessarily mean that drugs, tobacco, and alcohol cause mental illness, however they can be a prominent factor in a mental illness becoming unmanageable for an individual.
8. Bad work-life balance
Individuals who are not careful to balance their work and their downtime can cause themselves high levels of stress, which can result in psychological distress and burnout. Many different factors go into managing a good work-life balance including a person’s home situation and their relationship with their boss and colleagues at work.
A good way to improve work-life balance is to leave work at work, and make sure to stick to a strict schedule of working hours and non-working hours. For organizations, there should also be more focus and emphasis on mental health in the workplace.
9. Chronic physical health issues
People who have received news that they will be living with a chronic illness are often challenged far beyond the limits they have ever had to manage before. It takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to live with a chronic illness, especially if that chronic illness comes with constant pain or social stigma.
As a result, individuals suffering from such illnesses are at a higher risk of developing a mental illness as well, often depression.
10. Traumatic experience
A traumatic event can be on a wide spectrum of different occurrences – people who experience any kind of abuse, who have been in a bad car accident, who have been involved in a severe natural disaster, or who have been in war may develop PTSD as a result and may also suffer from other mental health disorders as well.
11. Serious injury
Receiving an injury to the head could trigger a mental health disorder, even if the injury is minor. The mental illness normally presents itself within the six months following the trauma, and current research has found significant ties between major depressive disorder and PTSD in individuals who received an injury to the head. If the trauma came as a result of an attack, it is more likely to be PTSD.