Mental health describes our ability to cope with life’s problems and make the most of life’s opportunities; it is about feeling good and functioning well, as individuals and collectively.

Mental health problems refers to difficulties we may experience with our mental health which affect our ability to cope with everyday life such as going to work, sleeping well, or socialising with friends.

Mental illness is a term used by some people to describe serious, long term mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or severe depression. People experiencing these problems often require treatment from specialist mental health services.

Mentally healthy children and young people should have the ability to: 

  • Develop emotionally, creatively and intellectually
  • Develop and maintain good relationships with other people
  • Play and learn
  • Understand ‘right’ from ‘wrong’
  • Face problems, setbacks and learn from them

(The Mental Health Foundation 1999)

Just consider … 

  • Mental health is everybody’s business – there is a continuum and we are all on it
  • Relationships are central to good mental health.  The best relationships empower young people to become better at coping with difficulties
  • Mental health is the product of complex interactions between nature, nurture and what happens to us in life – each of us has our own balance between risk and resilience
  • Reducing risk or increasing resilience can make the difference between coping and not coping. What may appear to us to be small things can make a big difference for young people

Issues that affect mental health and well-being 


A person feels emotions such as worry or fear as well as unease. Someone who has anxiety can feel like this all of the time or some of the time or just in certain situations. People feel anxiety emotionally and physically. Emotionally they may not be able to sleep, not be able to concentrate at school or at work, be easily annoyed or distracted. Physically they may feel tired or have muscle aches, and when people have a lot of anxiety, they may begin to feel dizzy. 



A person with bipolar has both extremely sad moods followed by extremely happy moods. When feeling happy the person has a lot of energy, has lots of new ideas and talks or thinks quite quickly. However when the person is sad they do not have much energy, have negative thoughts about themselves and feel hopeless and may have difficulty sleeping.



A person with depression feels very sad and hopeless for a long period of time. When feeling depressed the person can be tearful, have no motivation to do school work or take on tasks at work and not be able to enjoy doing things they would normally enjoy. Depression can also mean you have a change in appetite or weight and disturbed sleep patterns.


OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

A person with OCD could have thoughts, images or urges that pop into the mind without the person wanting it or thinking about it before. These thoughts are generally fearful thoughts that someone may hurt you or make fun of you. The person may feel the need to do things (check doors, repeat words or count) more than one time or multiple times in order to feel like they can carry on and do something else. 



A person who self-harms will intentionally hurt their body. This may be because they want to express how they feel or be seen as a way of coping with situations that people feel overwhelmed by. Self-harm can happen in all sorts of ways, by cutting or burning the skin, taking a lot of drugs or alcohol or taking a lot of tablets. 



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People who have ADHD often show behaviours such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.


There are 3 kinds of eating disorder; anorexia, bulimia and binge eating


A person with Anorexia tries to lose weight or keep their weight low by not eating. They can have an obsession with food, tell lies about what they have eaten and have a strict diet. Physically they may feel tired, have thin hair and brittle nails and often weigh or measure themselves frequently.



A person with Bulimia also tries to keep their weight low but in a different way. They can go through periods of time where they eat a lot of food all in one go and then get rid of the food from their bodies by being sick or using laxatives. Emotionally a person with Bulimia can feel guilty and isolated after eating lots of food and become obsessive towards different types of food. Physically they may have changes in how much they weigh regularly and have a yellowing of the teeth.



A person with Binge eating disorder may feel like they have to eat more than they normally would do all in one go. Emotionally the person may feel sad, not be able to concentrate at work or school and feel hopeless and lonely. Physically the person could have stomach pains and headaches and feel tired and crave sugar.