Mental health and mental illness

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. We all have mental health. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also impacts on how we cope, interact and form relationships with others, as well as our daily functioning.

Our mental health can vary and be dependent on a number of factors which may include;

  • The number of demands and stressors we have
  • Our physical health
  • Significant life events
  • How much sleep we get
  • Relationships with other people
  • Our diet/ nutritional intake
  • Environmental, societal and cultural factors
  • How much we engage in leisure activities, hobbies and interests

What is Mental illness?

Mental health is different from mental illness (which can also be referred to as having a mental health disorder). A mental illness or mental health disorder is an illness that affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others. 

Mental illness typically has mor of an impact across many areas of an individual’s life than episodes of poor mental health which may be situation specific or time limited.

Anyone of any age, gender, geographical background, race, ethnicity, class, background, religion, ability, appearance, culture, caste, education, economic status, spirituality, sexual orientation can experience mental illness.

Factors that contribute towards good mental health and emotional wellbeing

It is important to have the basics of wellbeing consistently practised and in place. Young people may need help establishing and maintaining these wellbeing practices:

  • Having a routine; getting up and going to bed at similar times
  • Good sleep hygiene (click HERE to learn more about sleep hygiene)
  • Being organised and having a plan of what to do and how to do it
  • Eating and drinking regularly, this includes having breakfast everyday
  • Engaging in hobbies and interests regularly
  • Making sure there is a balance of activities; academic work, social time and rest as these are all equally important
  • Having limits as to how much they use technology, social media and online gaming
  • Having short and longer term goals and ambitions; things to look forward to, strive and work towards

How adult caregivers can support a young person struggling with their mental health:

Top Tips

  • Tip 1

    Ensure you have support for yourself; ask for help or let someone know if you are struggling either with your own emotional and mental health or if you are struggling with supporting a young person.

  • Tip 2

    Role model that you are human too; normalise and validate that we all have thoughts and feelings and can experience difficulties and struggles with our emotional and mental health.

  • Tip 3

    Share information; joined up working between adult caregivers (e.g., home and education) ensures consistency and containment for young people.

  • Tip 4

    Be calm, consistent , clear and boundaried, as well as kind and compassionate.

  • Tip 5

    Remember that your verbal and nonverbal communication and responses will have an impact on how a young person thinks, feels and behaves.

  • Tip 6

    Work with a young person to help them better understand , express and communicate how they are thinking and feeling.

General CAMHS Referral Guidance

 What we do, what we don’t do and what you can do if you are worried about your child

Below is a general guide to help you decide what may be helpful for your child.


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