Mental health represents a comprehensive state of psychological well-being that enables individuals to effectively face life challenges, realize their personal and social potentials, thereby contributing to improving their quality of life and active participation in society. It is an integral element of the concept of comprehensive health, as it supports individuals’ and communities’ capacities to make decisions, build healthy relationships, and shape the surrounding environment.

Mental health is not limited to the absence of psychological disorders but encompasses a wide range of individual challenges and conditions. It is a complex and comprehensive perspective that depends on multiple factors varying in difficulty and impact, including social and clinical factors that may be unique to each individual.

Mental health disorders encompass a variety of conditions, including traditional mental disorders and social and psychological disabilities. Other psychological conditions may include stress-related disorders, performance impairments, or even the risk of self-harm. Individuals with mental health disorders may face challenges in achieving psychological comfort, but this does not always happen or necessarily.

In general, mental health is a fundamental right for all individuals and plays a vital role in personal, social, and economic development. By understanding these concepts and working to promote public awareness of the importance of mental health, a healthier and more prosperous society can be fostered.

Throughout our lives, a set of individual, social, and structural determinants shape our mental health, either enhancing or undermining it, and determining our position within the interconnected chain of mental health.

Individual psychological and biological factors, such as emotional skills, substance abuse, and genetics, can make individuals more susceptible to mental health problems.

Social, economic, geopolitical, and environmental challenges, such as poverty, violence, inequality, and environmental deprivation, increase the risk of individuals developing mental health disorders.

These risks can manifest at any stage of life, but are particularly harmful during sensitive developmental periods, especially in childhood. For example, harsh parenting and physical punishment are considered harmful to a child’s mental health, and frightening experiences are major risk factors for mental health disorders.

Similarly, protective factors throughout life, such as individual social and emotional skills, positive social interactions, good education, suitable employment, safe environments, and community cohesion, all play a role in strengthening our ability to cope with challenges.

The risks and strengths of mental health manifest at varying levels in society. Local threats are heavily influenced by the risks faced by individuals, families, and local communities, while global threats affect all populations, including economic downturns, epidemics, humanitarian emergencies, forced displacement, and climate change.

The predictive power of each risk factor and protective factor is limited, and most individuals may not develop mental health disorders despite exposure to risk factors. Conversely, many individuals may develop disorders despite not being exposed to any known risk factors. Interactive mental health determinants play a role in either promoting or undermining mental health.

Efforts to promote mental health and prevent mental disorders aim to examine and identify the individual, social, and structural determinants that affect mental health, then intervene to reduce risks, enhance resilience, and create supportive environments for mental health. These interventions can be designed to target individuals, population groups, or even entire communities.

Reshaping mental health determinants requires processes that transcend the boundaries of the health sector, as mental health promotion programs and prevention of mental disorders involve a range of sectors such as education, employment, justice, transportation, environment, housing, and social care. The health sector can play a crucial role by integrating efforts, collaborating, and coordinating with other sectors, and facilitating joint interventions when necessary.

Suicide prevention is of particular importance and is a global priority, included in the Sustainable Development Goals. Significant progress can be made in this area by restricting access to suicide means, providing responsible information about suicide, promoting social and emotional learning for teenagers, and implementing early interventions. Banning the use of highly hazardous pesticides is a cost-effective measure to reduce suicide rates.

Promoting and protecting the mental health of children and adolescents is another achievable goal through policies and laws that promote and protect mental health, support caregivers in providing nurturing care, implement school-based education programs, and improve the quality of community and digital environments. School-based social and emotional learning programs are among the effective strategies for promoting mental health in countries at different income levels.

Promoting and protecting mental health in the workplace is an increasingly important area that can be supported through legislation, regulations, organizational strategies, manager training, and interventions to promote employees’ mental health.

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